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FRODE GJERSTAD alto saxophone
DEREK BAILEY amplified guitar
JOHN STEVENS percussion & mini-trumpet

1 - HELLO - 2:58
3 - THREE BY THREE - 24:20
6 - GOODBYE - 6:04

Digital concert recording by FRODE GJERSTAD
Stavanger (Folken) - 1992 October
Total time 73:22

All previously unissued


Excerpts from sleeve notes:

John and I had several projects over the years alongside our trio, Detail. We did several duos and sometimes extended groups.

The trio with Derek happened because there was a festival in Trondheim inviting me to do something. I had been in contact with Derek several times, but up until then, nothing had come out of it. But we were hoping something would come up. And John was very clear about playing a regular drum kit, which he didn't usually do when playing with Derek - he normally used his small SME set.

This was a very compact week-end with a few laughs and some incredible stories. Besides the gig in Trondheim, which was on a Friday, we also played Oslo and my hometown, Stavanger over a period of three days. The gig in Trondheim was, as I remember, not so good. John had been given a rock drum set with a big bass drum, and was not too happy with it. I was very nervous, because I had just met Derek 10 minutes before we started. I had just got a portable little DAT recorder, and I asked Derek and John if it was OK to record the gig in Stavanger, which I did.

So, here we are. Another document with John Stevens. It certainly brings back some good memories from the time we spent together which I guess was one long workshop lasting almost 13 years! These were incredibly important years for me, both from a personal as well as musical point of view. John left a vast catalogue of recordings behind when he died in 1994, and recordings of his vary varied music have been released after his death. So we have a clear picture of his musical contribution, which was great. He did several recordings with Derek from the early days right up until his death. I was very privileged to have had the opportunity to play with these two gentlemen - at the same time.



Excerpts from reviews:

"The set is brilliant, filled with energy and that particular kind of listening level, interaction and camaraderie you get between Bailey and Stevens on a good evening. Stevens plays a regular drum kit instead of the small kit he usually performed with in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. It gives him a wider sound as he indulges in more frantic playing. Bailey delivers another of his inspired performances and has yet a few more surprises up his sleeve, like in the conclusion of the great Three Two Three Two One: left alone, he solos delicately for a few minutes before ending on a single feedback note, exquisitely sustained just a bit longer than necessary. One should not forget Gjerstad, a suitable player in this context. His saxophone brings both fire and ice to the performance."


"This already numbers among my contenders for the year end top ten list. The playing here is so fresh and of the moment that it is timeless. The only comparative weakness is the brevity of Hello and Penultimatum as the prime strength of this unit lies in the unfolding process of their creative interaction (although the elegiac ritual Goodbye demonstrates an ability to reign in technique to sustain an inspired ensemble dynamic). It is in three extended performances that the players demonstrate their mastery of minimalism and exquisite sonic detail. The innovative rapport of Bailey and Stevens is justly celebrated, as evidenced by their wonderful duo interludes during Three Two Three Two One and Two Three Two Three. Yet it is Gjerstad who truly comes into his own after tentative beginnings. He and Bailey create a duet of intensifying space during the splendid of Three Two Three Two One, while in the final third of Three by Three Gjerstad's loosely inventive counterpoint evolves into inspired and unfettered playing that showcases him at his most dynamic and inventive. HELLO GOODBYE is an exciting, essential document."


"HELLO GOODBYE is a concert recording from 1992 that finds alto saxophonist Frode Gjerstad, Derek Bailey, and the late John Stevens on top form. From the get go the trio sounds as if it has been together for years and not just one weekend. Gjerstad's playing is reminiscent of the focused, minimalist squirts and squawks of Trevor Watts' work with Stevens in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. The latter plays regular drums instead of his small SME kit and it gives his little flicks and thwacks more presence. Gradually Gjerstad occupies a wider terrain content to blow around the edges of a tune as Stevens' busy, jittery, stop-start stickwork nudges him along - meanwhile Bailey's electric guitar only ever gets gently noisy. Despite the intricacy of their entwined individual lines the music has a fluidic floating quality. Half way into Three Two Three Two One Gjerstad repeats a melodic fragment and the general busyness is replaced by a passage of collective hush that Bailey eventually polishes off with some sustained feedback. Toots from Stevens' mini-trumpet on Three By Three provoke another change of direction: elongated fragile cries accompanied by some of Bailey's prettiest playing. Highly enjoyable."


"Although Stevens plays, for once, a full-size kit rather than the small version he often used when working with Bailey, the music still has the scuttling animation of intense chamber music. Gjerstad and Stevens work lightly and quickly, never upsetting any balance, while Bailey seems the most aggressive of the three: he ends Three Two Three Two One with one of the longest notes on record. An excellent survival."

RICHARD COOK and/or BRIAN MORTON - 'The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD' 2002

"Familiar notions of melody and structured rhythmic foundations get brushed aside throughout this splendid outing recorded two years prior to drummer, John Stevens' untimely passing. Fortunately, the music presented here, is pristinely resurrected, much to our delight.

One of the overriding attributes of this production resides within Gjerstad's rustling and somewhat elusive lines atop Stevens' odd-metered - slap, tap, brush and roll permutations. Guitar great, Derek Bailey anchors, prods and maintains an abstract sense of equilibrium via his amplified chop chords, undulating harmonics, and timely interjections. The trio's often-curvaceous rendering of motifs atop unrestrained harmonic developments present just one level of a multi-tiered program - where the artists encircle rhythm while utilising space for manoeuvrability.

They intersect various planes and angles, thanks to Bailey's extended note attacks, Stevens' polyrhythmic assaults and Gjerstad's applications of sublimely executed mini-themes. On Three By Three, the trio raises the bar some, as they pursue edgy, frenetic interplay and venture off into dissimilar yet abstractly tuneful paths. Thus, HELLO GOODBYE signifies a mystifying quality of enchantment and reigns as one of the finer recordings of this ilk for 2001. Strongly recommended."


"Bailey is on particularly engaging form throughout. He makes much telling use of crescendo and diminuendo effects. Frequently he acts as a catalyst in the strict sense, provoking reactions and transforming material that comes into contact with him, but continuing apparently unaffected and unchanged himself. On this session he plays a pivotal, organic role. He and Stevens were old cronies from the early days of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, and they are each thoroughly familiar with the other's improvisatory territory, but you'd not expect either of them to lapse into cosy routine.

Stevens played a regular kit, not his usual practice in this type of context. There are no overt rhythmic statements, of course, but he drives the music along with a potent sense of momentum, abetted by DB's chattering staccato figures. Gjerstad, stitching often ethereal and etiolated lines into the fabric of each piece, examining saxophonic textures from many angles, worrying at fragments of melody, is a more than worthy partner to them both. Some improv you listen to because it's good for your soul, but this CD is a real pleasure."


"The tapes for this recording were thankfully discovered by Frode Gjerstad in 2000, eight years after the performance, and brought to disk by producer Martin Davidson. What a find they are! This early documentation of the Norwegian saxophonist with John Stevens and Derek Bailey provides more than an hour of outstanding free improvisation. At this stage in his career, Gjerstad was heavily influenced by Evan Parker, but he was nonetheless more than beginning to develop his own sound. He was engaging somewhat in extended techniques, and he kept a focused perspective. Derek Bailey is stunning on amplified guitar, his voice powerful and confident. John Stevens, too, is in good form, with his mini-trumpet a particular delight. The end of Three Two Three Two One sounds annoyingly like extended feedback, but otherwise, the whole has a very serious, British feel, with an emphasis on little sounds, lowered volumes, and playful interaction. In retrospect, while there is little new here, there is an exciting quality to the live performance that is captured in surprisingly high fidelity. Gjerstad was clearly appreciated by Stevens and Bailey, both of whom recognised his talent and style. A good example of the ability of music to cross geographical and cultural lines, this recording deserves a wide circulation, and it should add to the reputation of one of Norway's finest performers."


"Stevens in particular seems, from the first moment on, to be on an absolute high of gung-ho, choppy percussive inventiveness, playing constantly shifting sequences of arrhythmic attacks that change more or less every few seconds, constantly dosed with splashing small-cymbal attacks that colour and sweeten his 'all-over' rhythmic approach - one that propels things forward but in an especially gratifying way that's musically 'vertical' as much as 'horizontal' to the ears.

For me what's great about these six pieces is the drummer's staggering intertwinings with Bailey's chopped, blunt chords, scales, harmonic sequences, barbed-wire clusters of dissonance and multi-timbred figures. It's a full-course meal of endlessly intricate details for the attentive ear, and Bailey's arsenal of atonal tricks and attacks - decades in the making - is on full display, which incidentally makes this a good CD for British-free-improv newcomers to hear as well (hear in the middle of Three by Three a strange, fascinating sequence of weird cigarbox-banjo-timbred, scumbly double-note sequences that Bailey pulls off then discards - how does he instantly change the timbre like that?).

Gjerstad is a sympathetic saxist with a clean, warm tone reminiscent of Ornette Coleman (especially on Two Three Two Three), and throughout the proceedings he rips up, squeaks n' growls with the best of 'em, giving the Norwegians their money's worth and contributing virtually all of the overtly jazzy flavour that this music contains."


"Bailey and Stevens often played together, of course, but the concert recording HELLO GOODBYE is of a later vintage than most, dating as it does from 1992. They always shared a common language, with a snap in their playing which makes it tough to access on a first listen. Both demand your close attention, and enjoy tiny, compressed details which are never repeated. Both are utterly idiosyncratic and, although much-imitated, they remain instantly identifiable, yet they seemed to reach the same general conception of how their very different instruments should be approached.

Stevens used a full-size kit for this concert in place of the smaller one with which he is usually associated. The sounds are fuller and, moist strikingly, they have far more sustain. Tom-toms ring, cymbals sizzle, and we are superficially transported out of Stevens's usual, dry-as-a-bone style and into something far more familiar. There's no question of Stevens compromising his style here - he plays just as he would on the smaller kit. Instead, something much more interesting happens. The more conventional kit throws fresh light on his approaches; phrases which usually sound punchy and aggressive suddenly expose their roots as jazzy hi-hat rudiments, ride cymbal paradiddles, hemiolas and the like.

Bailey plays amplified acoustic throughout. The sound is raw and slightly distorted, and if Stevens is that little bit more approachable here than is usual, then Bailey certainly is not. He's one of the most unyielding of players, sticking to his own path regardless of what goes on around him. It sounds like a criticism, but it would only be a problem if he was not such a good listener. And Derek Bailey is the listening person's good listener, and pretty much always makes things work.

Frode Gjerstad, who organised this once-only trio, is of course far less well-known. Its during the down-tempo, more spacious segments that his rather melodic conception shines through, and although he sometimes sounds like a straight man to Stevens and Bailey's avant garde double-act he never really is out of place. He's jazzy but so, on this occasion, is Stevens; considering Stevens's own harsh vocabulary, Gjerstad acquits himself remarkably well. Having re-engineered the apparently poor quality recording, Gjerstad can claim responsibility for a very fine record indeed."


"Another wonderful set of improvisations from EMANEM. Music like this can't be played effectively unless the players are totally in tune with the freedom! Frode's reeds, Bailey's amplified guitar & John's crisp percussives mesh together flawlessly, in a dance of free fantasy that will open the listener's mind up to possibilities never before imagined. Obviously, this is totally unfettered music, which will make some listeners squirm a bit... but if you've even a cell or two of adventure in your earlobes... you'll hear why we declare it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! GREAT improv!"


"At first, Gjerstad's sax adds a (relatively) more focused path to a fine, but 'traditional', free improv session with his more famous peers. The twenty-five minute Three By Three gets frisky, each playing angularly off the other, then leading to a large ensemble sound, then truly riveting solos, especially by Bailey, Stevens adding little wah-wah to the texture with his mini-trumpet. The rhythmic exchange that develops toward the end in a guitar-percussion duo is breath-taking, and ends with bell-like notes, eventually bent, by Bailey. The final shorter pieces of this complete concert made me exclaim aloud."


"The late John Stevens may have been the most intrepid of British improvisers, first into the gap as leader of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and with a tremendous dedication to the absence of forethought. Part of the interest of his work is his insistent minimalism, the naked communication of his sparse drum kit and the solitary bleakness of his occasional cornet forays. This CD demonstrates the musical empathy he could develop with close associates.

Stevens was a long-time partner of both the other musicians, but it was the first weekend Gerstad and Bailey had played together. It's a marvellous performance. Gerstad is one of the subtlest of alto saxophonists, a genuine improviser whose thoughtful lines bear some resemblance to the late Jimmy Lyons, but who has his own highly nuanced responses to the shifting fabric of the musical situation. The interplay is at an extraordinary level and there's a clarity in the space of the trio - whether crisp Nordic air is an electric musical intelligence - that's very bracing."


"Although Stevens plays, for once, a full-size kit rather than the small version he often used when working with Bailey, the music still has the scuttling animation of intense chamber music. Gjerstad and Stevens work lightly and quickly, never upsetting any balance, while Bailey seems the most aggressive of the three: he ends Three Two Three Two One with one of the longest notes on record. An excellent survival."

RICHARD COOK and/or BRIAN MORTON - 'The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD' 2002


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