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Frode Gjerstad & Ståle Liavik Solberg: Jerusalem, Israel, June 28, 2012

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Frode Gjerstad & Ståle Liavik Solberg
Uganda
Jerusalem, Israel
June 28, 2012
The best way to experience free improvised music is live, close to the musicians—and if possible, in small places. The Uganda club in Jerusalem turned out to be a perfect space for Norwegian reed player and master of free improvisation, Frode Gjerstad, and his fellow countryman and frequent collaborator, drummer Stale Liavik Solberg, in their first gig in Israel, part of the Hafarot Seder festival organized by the Levontin 7 club in Tel Aviv.
Maybe it was the unpretentious character of the Uganda club, its familiar atmosphere and small performance hall, that leaves no space at all between the musicians and the audience. Or maybe the receptive, small audience—only eight people—that were clearly unfamiliar with the Gjerstad's work, which goes back to the beginning of the Eighties. Or the chilly evening, that was considered by the friendly Norwegians as perfectly warm by their standards.
It does not really matter. Gjerstad is one of the heroic figures of the European free improvisation scene. He has played with many great European and American improvisers, usually in small, intimate formats. Solberg is a generation younger, but was an equal to Gjerstad. Like a true master, Gjerstad was focused on the search for sonic articulation—not on a perfect, well-built and polished one, but one with an immediate, personal and truly emotional impact. He did not attach himself to any utterance. If it works—either by his clarinet or the alto sax, for him and for Solberg—he will develop it, explore it and push it forward. If not, he will let another one blossom. There was no end to his musical ideas.

There was also no attempt to impress the audience with any sort of technical mastery, though both Gjerstad and Solberg know their instruments through and through. There was a sense of a personal humility. The shared, creative music was more important for these individuals. And naturally there was a sense of joy, of expressing themselves, openly, with healthy energy and with immediate and mutual understanding.

And though there was not a clear rhythmic, harmonic or melodic outline to any of any of the improvised pieces, there was a feeling of an accumulated, boiling energy that reached its cathartic climax during the last minutes of the gig. It was a short, concise and illuminating experiment of living and playing in the moment. A liberating experiment for the few wise ones who believed in this rare kind of music and trusted the great art of Gjerstad and Solberg.

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