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Frode Gjerstad Trio + Steve Swell: Bop Stop

John Sharpe By

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The bones of Norwegian saxophonist Frode Gjerstad's Trio go back a long way. He first co-opted drummer Paal Nilssen-Love into his Circulasione Totale Orchestra when he was still a teenager. Although bassist Jon Rune Strøm is a more recent recruit, he has still been on board since 2011. As such the consistently high quality interplay they generate should come as little surprise. The addition of trombonist Steve Swell to supplement the trio is a bonus, providing a foil for Gjerstad and filling the role that veteran trumpeter Bobby Bradford has often played for the reedman, as well as increasing the unpredictability by having another accomplished improviser in the mix.

Gjerstad has forged a singular niche for himself and sounds like few others. Though at times his tone suggests the vocal cry of Ornette Coleman, it comes without any trace of the blues foundation. His squiggling darting lines betray a fondness for upper register destinations, which contrast neatly with Swell's brassy heft, which he fashions with acute attention to pitch, timbre and phrasing. That bond is shown to good advantage in the inflammable duet which begins "Pop Bop." Indeed the dialogue between them forms one of the highlights of this disc.

But the interaction isn't confined to the horns, as confirmed by the first of many explosive entrances on the title cut, this time fashioned by the trombonist and Nilssen-Love after Strøm's thrummed intro. Thereafter all the possible permutations get an airing, arising organically from the collectively originated flow. There's variety too, as they hit on a range of moods, sometimes even within a single piece. Thus "Post Stop" starts as an atmospheric textural exchange full of exhalations, vocalizations, glissandos, and isolated cymbal strikes, but ends as a pile-driving carve up. This is a group that can do it all, and does so with flair.

Track Listing: Bop Stop; Stop Bop; Pop Bop; Post Stop.

Personnel: Frode Gjerstad: alto saxophone; Steve Swell: trombone; Jon Rune Strøm: double bass; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums & percussion.

Title: Bop Stop | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Clean Feed Records

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CD/LP/Track Review
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