FRODE GJERSTAD WITH HAMID DRAKE & WILLIAM PARKER
To most folks Norwegian jazz begins and ends with ECM Records stalwarts Jan Garbarek and Terje Rypdal, the leading progenitors of the pastel-toned one-world fusion the label is notorious for popularizing. Alto saxophonist Frode Gjerstad, a staunch free-jazz proponent with a rangy sense of melody, should know–he’s been working in their shadow for the last two decades. Because what he does is so unpopular at home, most of his career has been spent in the company of foreigners, most significantly South African bassist Johnny Dyani and British drummer John Stevens, who played with him in the trio Detail. On their handful of superb but hard-to-find recordings from the early 80s, Gjerstad’s surprisingly buoyant, sometimes fluttery sound bridges Dyani’s earthy, full-bodied rhythms and Stevens’s more cerebral and abstract machinations. The trio soldiered on with Kent Carter after Dyani’s death in 1986, but when Stevens died in 1994 Detail ended. Gjerstad has continued making records as a leader, including several recent outings on which Los Angeles cornetist Bobby Bradford–who also played on one of Detail’s albums–underscores his tart melodies with unyielding lyricism. More relevant to this week’s performances is Remember to Forget, a wonderful trio recording with New York bassist William Parker and Chicago drummer Hamid Drake, released on the saxophonist’s own Circulasione Totale label. The rhythm section’s powerful thrust inspires Gjerstad to experiment with his phrasing, trying everything from drifting legato lines to herky-jerky splatter to bobbing-and-weaving patterns. The context, which is less frenzied than most of Parker’s regular situations, also foregrounds his uniquely propulsive attack and subtle melodic talents. Saturday, 9:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 21281/2 S. Indiana; 312-791-9050. Wednesday, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western (on a bill with Makanda Ken McIntyre, the subject of a separate Critic’s Choice this week); 773-276-3600.