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Frode Kjekstad: In Essence

In brief:
"If you're drawn to speed-kings Bill DeArango and Pat Martino, then Kjekstad is definitely for you. But if Kenny Burrell or Wes Montgomery are more your thing, then there's also much to relish"

Born in Lien, Norway in 1974, Kjekstad has long been known as a player of post-bop assurance, with Charlie Parker and Joe Pass key early influences. His fully evolved music, in exhilarating evidence here, is one of both clean-lined and molten technical brilliance mixed with no little melodic poetry and harmonic light and shade: hear the beautifully projected Leaving, eight minutes of compulsive, maturely cast ballad meditation of high order.

If you’re drawn to speed-kings Bill DeArango and Pat Martino, then Kjekstad is definitely for you (Essence, Hot Gloves, Golden Apple). But if the blues-cut harmonic elegance of Kenny Burrell or the warmth of tone and spirit in the rolling cadences of Wes Montgomery are more your thing, then there’s also much to relish: sample Dark Hour, the tight and funky Blues For J.D. and the gorgeous (and thus aptly titled) Peacock Park, where the spirit of Montgomery perfumes the air.

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None of this is to suggest that Kjekstad is dealing in pastiche or the afterglow of former giants. A musician of wide-ranging experience, including two well-received early releases on Curling Legs (New York Time and The Italian Job) and the later and equally applauded A Piece Of The Apple from 2017 (on Losen Records), his CV includes work with Gerald Wilson, Frank Foster, Eric Alexander, Dr Lonnie Smith, Claire Martin and the Sandvika Big Band.

A promising operatic tenor in his youth, Kjekstad has melodic gifts and a rich harmonic awareness that inform the present, elegantly crafted – and perfectly programmed – material, all of which he composed.

Throughout, we’re treated to an engaging, now singing and ringing, now stinging guitar sound, filtered through the most intelligent deployment of tonal, melodic and harmonic nuance: guitar buffs will doubtless appreciate the sleeve-note’s concise details on how Kjekstad sets up the sound of his Gibson Johnny Smith 1974 instrument.

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His fresh and vibrant voicings, crisply turned blend of linear and chordal ideas and overall rhythmic alertness and élan elicit spot-on support from the excellent Berg (pizzicato throughout) and Stefaniassen. The burnished, superbly recorded whole makes for one of the purest and most enjoyable jazz releases I’ve heard in quite some time.

Find out more about Frode Kjekstad at frodekjekstad.com

Discography
In Essence; The Dark Hour; Hot Gloves; Leaving; The Golden Apple; A Walk in The Peacock Park; Blues For J.D.; Rude Waltz (41.16)
Kjekstad (elg); Frode Berg (b); Magnus Stefaniassen Eide (d). Sandvika, 1 October 2019.
Losen Records LOS 233-2

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