Sverre Gjørvad drums, voice
Herborg Rundberg piano, pump organ, drum
Dag Okstad bass, drum
Kristian Svalestad Olstad guitars, drum
Joakim Milder tenor saxophone on track 8
Release No: LOS 247-2
All compositions by Sverre Gjørvad except track 8 by Paddy McAloon
Recorded July 1-3, 2020 by Kristian Svalestad Olstad at Kysten studio, Tromsø, Norway
Tenor saxophone recorded August 11, 2020 by Magnus Frykberg at Break My Heart Studio, Stockholm, Sweden
Mixed August 2020 by Kristian Svalestad Olstad at Room 225, Tromsø
Mastered September 7, 2020 by Morten Lund at Lund´s Lyd, Oslo, Norway
Produced by Sverre Gjørvad
Front cover photo by maxeilert
Sverre Gjørvad is a storyteller, and has been at least since he played in the band Storytellers, established in Trondheim in 1992. What it means to be a storytelling drummer and composer may be an open question, but on this album the stories are told using melodies and atmospheres. Thus begins an answer to the question of how to tell stories as a composer: you have musicians who translate your compositions into stories. The musicians on this album are the same ones that played on Voi Riverfrom 2019: Herborg Rundberg on piano and pump organ, Kristian Svalestad Olstad on guitar, and Dag Okstad on bass, and in their interaction you can hear that they know each others.
The melodic and the atmospheric are two extremes on a continuum, but these compositions on the album contain both ends. “An Amorphic Balloon” with its long-held chords and bowed bass is on the atmospheric side, where the drums establish space as much as time. “Elegy of Skies” is different, and opens with a solo melody in bass. A piano chord almost stops time, but the bass reappears and the instruments enters into a form of questions and answers. The melody is characteristic for one of Gjørvad’s compositional strategies, what I am tempted to call a reflexive naivety.
“Rein” is partly inspired by David Monrad Johansen’s “Rensdyr” (Reindeer), and here another dimension of Gjørvad’s stories come to the fore: a Nordic or Northern dimension. There is something site-specific about his stories, him being inspired from his surroundings, and as a musician and composer he draws on these inspirations and translate them into sounds.
The playful opening theme of “Fire” develops into a musical dialogue. The different instruments move in and out of focus, and the composition feels like a conversation between them, but the kind of conversation where the partners know each other so well that they some times complete each other’s sentences. A different kind of conversation seems to be at stake on “The Wife Waltzes Too.” The drums lay a whispered and whispering foundation for melodic interactions as if the instruments are dancing. The song moves seamlessly from the composed to the improvised parts, as if there is no clear distinction between them. The solos make the song sound like four voices telling the same story from different perspectives.
Like many musicians in the so-called jazz tradition, like other musicians of his generation, Gjørvad also relates to pop music. More specifically, he introduces at least one pop cover on his albums. On this one, it is Prefab Sprout’s “Mercy,” where Joakim Milder joins the band on tenor saxophone. Surrounded by organ, with discreet drumming, and bass fundament, the melody becomes the carrying dimension of the cover. This may not be surprising for a pop song, so it at the same time makes perfect sense together with the melodic dimensions of the original compositions.
As if to emphasize that this is an album by a drummer that is also a composer, the last track, “Elegy of Skies 2 (in memoriam)” opens with atmospheric drums and percussion, together with percussive piano figures. But after listening to the whole album, it is striking how melodic Gjørvad’s drumming feels. Thus, the meeting between the melodic and the atmospheric throughout the album teaches us to listen differently, to listen for melodies where they may not be obviously present.
Erik Steinskog, September 2020