Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bradford/Gjerstad Quartet - Silver Cornet

Silver Cornet
Bradford/Gjerstad Quartet
Nessa Records

Bobby Bradford – Cornet
Frode Gjerstad – Alto sax, clarinet
Ingebrigt Haker Flaten – Double bass
Frank Rosaly - Drums

Silver Cornet was recorded in March of this year at the Windup Space in Baltimore, the last stop on the Quartet’s North American tour. I had the pleasure of attending their Dallas performance a few night’s earlier; Yells At Eels' Dennis Gonzalez had coaxed them up between their Austin and Houston dates.

When I walked in to the concert venue, I saw a man with a cornet in his lap, sitting alone in a corner. Thus, I was able to actually meet Mr. Bradford and soak in his tales of growing up in Fort Worth and the legends he had played with. Later on I was able to meet the other members of the group; definitely a wonderful experience that I documented on this blog.

The instrumental line-up and Bradford’s history would suggest that their music would be heavily influenced by Ornette, but at least as a listener that’s not really the case. In fact, the Quartet really reminds me of Other Dimensions In Music in the way the music rises and falls in a very natural way.

Bradford has what I call an “organic” approach to improvising; everything flows, nothing seems forced, and it’s very conversational. You really hear the history of jazz and free music in his playing. 

Listening to Frode is like what I imagine watching Pollock at work was like: At first everything looks random and disconnected, but over the course of time you see an arc, a progression. He infers, rather than states, and he’s a great foil for his front-line partner.

The acoustics of the Dallas show made picking up the bass difficult, so it’s great to hear Ingebrigt’s contributions so much more clearly. He’s all over his instrument, with a lightening-quick approach that reminds me of Barry Guy at times.

And Frank Rosaly? Well, I’ve never seen anyone play like he does. His approach involves rapidly taking various cymbals off their stands, placing them on top of drumheads, and striking or swiping them. It’s mesmerizing live, and what almost got lost was how well he can drive the band when needed.

Once the Dallas performance was finished, I had a vision in my mind that the music hadn’t really stopped, that it was a river that would keep flowing. Silver Cornet is proof of that.

Here's a clip from this Baltimore performance:


  1. Hey Craig,

    Nice write-up. Thanks for doing it. I hadn't known that this was released so it's a service to get the information out there. Terrific quartet here - Bradford of course having a lot of history and being a known master - but I'm also very interested in Rosaly as well. I've been listening to/watching him for a while. I also write and have done a couple things involving him. Pasted below is an excerpt from one of them if interested. Thanks again Craig!

    Hearts and Minds’s drummer is the wild card – the “unstable molecule” (yes, Chicago music scene pun/reference intended): Yet a paradoxically controlled, selective and intended instability; that swinging, driving clatter coming from all directions, often with no discernable starting point; this undefined, non-localized, deconstructionist/reconstructionist force moving ever forward searching for more, more. What is this force called? Yeah, it’s Rosaly. At times, there’s so much happening in his drumming that you sense an oncoming system overload; yet it never arrives. Some fitting, idiosyncratic musical balance is always achieved. It just works itself out. Like in some of Cecil Taylor’s solo piano work when it’s hard to believe all that music is coming from one person. But it is.

    Rosaly is occasionally like a dancer following after the cues from his body. His drums happen to be there and function as extensions of his limbs and movements. Part of what creates this dance is his searching through his trove of instruments, in media res, for the right sound at the right moment. Occasionally he used two sticks in one hand; a technique I had never seen used on a drum kit before - only on vibes or marimba. It reminded me of when I was a line cook and a chef taught me to use two knives in one hand for prep. I could chop twice as much. It was a very smart, simple solution: Two knives, more food. Two sticks, more sound. Rosaly is simply smart. He just gets more done that way. But it’s a unique technique that undoubtedly took a good deal of practice before being able to incorporate into performance. Cool stuff…

    As creative, reactive, and free as Rosaly’s playing can get, he can also lay down a groove that lifts the room and simply makes the space feel good. But more than half of the evening’s music was quite “outside.” His approach in these more unpredictable contexts often seems to create an abstracted shadow of a concrete object. Or he can seem to be using a sort of Completion Principal or “Beat” style “cut-up” poetry technique: like writing sentences/paragraphs, then taking out randm words or ltters. Lke ths mayb o lie his. Bt ith msic and with ore textcon than this ampleex is gving.

  2. Thanks for including that excerpt from your writing - you really "got" Frank Rosaly's approach! It was amazing to see him live after having heard him on various records. I particularly like these thoughts:

    "Rosaly is occasionally like a dancer following after the cues from his body. His drums happen to be there and function as extensions of his limbs and movements. " and "...he can also lay down a groove that lifts the room and simply makes the space feel good."

    Please point me to more of your writing!

    1. Thanks man. "Please point me to more of your writing!" You're on:

      That's the probably the best page to start at. Some of the write-ups have accompanying video. And then over in the more "pop/rock" section are some of my personally favorite write-ups. Rock on Mr. Premo...