North Atlantic Drift

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Frode Gjerstad alto saxophone
Nick Stephens double bass

1. High Southern Norway 5:27
2. Snake By The Lake 9:37
3. Falling Slowly 9:05
4. Rising More Slowly 10:24
5. North Utsire’ South Utsire 7:34
6. Becoming Cyclonic – for Tony Williams 12:21
7. Complex Area Persisting – for John Stevens 9:34

Recorded in Stavanger in 1997
Previously released by Falcata Galia
Artwork Fay Stephens

Loose Torque LT002 Category

“The level of density and interweaving dialogue astounds. There are paint-peeling moments and places of delicacy”.
Dan Rose One Final Note Read full review

DOUBLE BASSIST – Spring 2004
“Stephens describes the profound impact that the atmosphere of the misty Norwegian Fjords had on the two musicians as they worked intensively in the studio. This concentrated atmosphere is immediately apparent in the dulled, almost vulnerable beauty of the first track High, Southern Norway. Stephens’ playing has a vocal quality, as he opens with some beautifully controlled rising arpeggios that bend pitch and morph between normal bowing and contasto. When Gjerstad enters, the two musicians blend seamlessly, slithering around the scale rather than resting on any one single note. Gjerstads saxophone playing is rooted in Ornette Coleman, though the occasional gruffer honk is reminiscent of Albert Ayler. However the groove of Rising More Slowly puts Gjerstad closer to Sonny Rollins and Stephens responds to this rare sighting of a regular metre by provoking a fierce clash as he pushes the other way into abstraction. The disc closes with poignent tributes to drummer Tony Williams – who had recently died – and their mentor John Stevens. This disc is full of emotionally potent playing that keeps the listener thinking long after the music ends.” Philip Clark

THE WIRE – August 2003
“Gjerstad met bassist Nick Stephens while they were both working with John Stevens. Such was the drummers impact that, on the opening track and on other animated passages it’s not hard to imagine his pit-a-pat percussion moving through the space between double bass and sax. Stephens is an excellent musician and this recording, made in 1997, is a welcome opportunity to hear him close up and at length.

For much of North Atlantic Drift, Gjerstad slows right down, disclosing reflective aspects of his playing. Stephens approximates the altoists volatile tone with bowed harmonics but he’s much more than just a complimentary presence and he draws expertly on his instrument’s wide communicative range to make sustained, substantial and imaginative statements.” Julian Cowley

Redwood, New York.
“This duo is compelling, creating dark and icy improvisations of the sort captured in the title (and, indeed, the liners indicate that each studio session was preceded by long drives or walks through Norway’s icy mountains or alongside the fjords).

Having met through the late John Stevens, catalyst for the British improv and long time member of Gjerstad’s group Detail these two players share a highly abstract though focused approach to free playing. Gjerstad’s tart alto improvisations are indebted to Ornette Coleman, if not in that vocabulary then in their logic. But outside of his favored trio context, these duos also present a good opportunity to focus in on his luxuriant tone. On sparse pieces like “Complex Area Persisting” his breathy playing cozies up to the frosty arco of Stephens (a superb bassist). Often their interaction results in the construction of a dense lattice as they chase each others lines down and twist them into different directions.”High Southern Norway” is a somewhat startling opener, slashing out of the speakers at you as Stephens’ fierce playing throws out ominous shapes for Gjerstad’s alto to hurdle. Yet on “Snake By The Lake,” an entirely different territory is explored as the delicate trills of the saxophone cautiously circle the spooky arco rumble. “Falling Slowly” flutters like a bird, with feathery lines appearing and disappearing in the upper register. Ironically, perhaps, “Rising More Slowly” sounds better tethered. But most earthy is the rhythmic invention of “Becoming Cyclonic”

These pieces are so dense that they may best be sampled a bit at a time, but this fine duo is well worth the time and attention.” Jason Bivins