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Frode Gjerstad

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Saxophonist Frode Gjerstad is the leading free jazz musician of Norway. He started out as a trumpet player, but switched to tenor sax as a fill-in for an R&B band, and has stuck with the instrument since. Gjerstad was attracted to free jazz after hearing albums by Eric Dolphy and, most influentially, Albert Ayler. Almost a decade after his jazz saxophone beginnings, Gjerstad started up his own label, Circulasione Totale. He had difficulty finding other musicians in Norway who were interested in playing, so his first, cassette-only release was a solo recording. Gjerstad eventually started a trio named Detail with British drummer John Stevens. The trio -- and Gjerstad and Stevens' close musical relationship -- continued until Stevens' death in 1994. By this time, Gjerstad also led the Circulasione Totale Orchestra, which recorded several dates for his label. Following Detail's abrupt end, Gjerstad performed with Borah Bergman in N.Y., toured Norway with Evan Parker, and performed and recorded in a duo with Peter Brotzmann. In 1997, Gjerstad was voted Norwegian Jazz Musician of the Year, an honor which came with a prize of a tour with the musicians of his choice. The result was a Scandinavian tour that same year with two superb U.S. musicians: bassist William Parker and percussionist Hamid Drake. The trio would go on to record two albums in the late '90s -- the first on Gjerstad's label, the second on Cadence -- and tour together again in 2000, this time performing in the U.S. too. ~ Joslyn Layne


24 March 1948 in Stavanger, Norway

Years Active:

'60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s