(Written by Rocco Stilo)
Norwegian reedist Frode Gjerstad (1948) started his career in the late 1970s playing clarinet, saxophone and flute, and began a collaboration with John Stevens in 1981 as a member of Detail recording Forwards And Backwards (october 1982). Gjerstad and Stevens then recorded the duets of Sunshine (march 1984) and In Time Was (july 1986), a collaboration with Bobby Bradford.
In 1987 Gjerstad formed the large ensemble Circulasione Totale Orchestra, which gathered, among others, trumpeter Bobby Bradford, pianist Eivin One Pedersen, drummers Hamid Drake and Paal Nilssen-Love, bassists Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and Nick Stephens, again Stevens, percussionists Kevin Norton and Louis Moholo, and reedist Sabir Mateen.
The ensemble released Accent (october 1987), Enten Eller (august 1992), Recycling Grieg (may 1995), that collects reworkings of the Norwegian classical composer, Borealis (february 1998), Open Port (may 1998), featuring the 48-minute suite Yellow Bass And Silver Cornet in memory of John Stevens, the live triple-disc box-set Bandwidth (july 2008) and the double-disc PhilaOslo, collecting two monumental 70-minute tracks, Phila (january 2010) and Oslo (march 2011).
Ism (july 1998) was instead his first solo alto-sax album.
His other project Calling Signals released Calling Signals (november 1996), with guitarist Hasse Poulsen and the rhythm section of Moholo-Moholo and Nick Stephens; Dreams In Dreams (january 2005) with Eivin One Pedersen (accordion), Nick Stephens (bass) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums); Live In The UK (august 2005), on which Tony Marsh replaced Nilssen-Love; From Cafe Sting (march 2007), with Louis Moholo-Moholo on drums; the drum-less From Cafe Oto (december 2008), with Lol Coxhill on soprano sax; A Winter's Tour (december 2009), with Jon Corbett on trumpet and trombone.
His Trio featured several lineups, initially with Wilber Morris (bass) and Rashid Bakr (drums) on A Sound Sight (september 1997). Then with the rhythm section of William Parker (bass) and Hamid Drake (drums) on Remember To Forget (october 1997), Ultima (same session) and The Other Side (january 2000). Then Nilssen-Love and Oyvind Storesund on The Blessing Light (september 2000), Last First (november 1999), Sharp Knives Cut Deeper (december 2001), that also had Peter Broetzmann guesting, St. Louis (october 2002), Mothers & Fathers & (february 2005), Nothing Is Forever (may 2007).
In Mir (september 2010) Storesund was replaced by Jon Rune Strom, followed by East Of West (april 2011), Hide Out (august 2011), Russian Standard (december 2013), Miyazaki (may 2014), At Constellation (november 2014), with Steve Swell as guest, containing the 29-minute Con and the 23-minute Ation, and Steam In The Casa (november 2015).
quartet produced two albums: Ikosa Mura (september 1997), with drummer Pheeroan akLaff, pianist Borah Bergman and trumpetist Bobby Bradford; and Through The Woods (same month and year, but another session).
Gjerstad also organized a Cello Quartet with Nilssen-Love and celloists Fred Lonberg-Holm and Amit Sen, recording the namesake album (october 2005).
The trio project Instinctual Eye, along with Kevin Norton on vibraphone and Nick Spethens on bass, recorded in november 2005 Born In Brooklyn.
In all of these albums, and also in his numeorus collaborations, his sound was always characterized by free and experimental improvisations, but a bit rock-oriented with his Circulasion Totale Orchestra.
He also recorded: The Houdan (FMR, 2017), that documents four tracks (notably the 20-minute title-track) extracted from the concert recorded live in july 2017 on sax with Fred Lonberg Holm (cello and electronics), their second experience as a duo for FMR (the first was the 2011ís Tistel); and Nearby Faraway (PNL, 2017), on which Gjerstad plays alto and bass saxes, Bb and contrabass clarinet, in a collaboration along with Paal Nilssen-Love (asba drums) in a studio september 2016 session that collects nine pieces, mostly brief and free improvised, recorded, say credits, as a tribute to Norwegian accordionist and pianist Eivin One Pedersen, died in 2012.