Idiomatic allegiance in improvised music still holds a surprising amount of sway, at least when it comes to commercial concerns. Norwegian saxophonist Frode Gjerstad found out the costs of deviation firsthand with his early enterprise Detail, a multinational ensemble with a curtailed longevity that feels tragic with hindsight. Day Two documents an October 1982 studio date from relatively early in the band’s run. Keyboardist Eivin One Pedersen had cut ties due to creative differences leaving South African bassist Johnny Dyani and British free improv pioneer John Stevens to gel even closer with the fresh-faced Gjerstad in an intimately attuned unit. The saxophonist released the music on LP several years later, adding to a scattered, mostly cassette discography.
Sequenced into two LP-side sized pieces, the disc documents a classic extended example of the trio’s egalitarian ethos. Stevens never overshadows his colleagues and the communication lines remain open even when one or more of the players opts for silent listening over sound-driven input. Gjerstad opens on intentionally furtive soprano, tracing melodic figures against the massive throb of Dyani’s strings and the steady tidal tumble of Stevens’ sticks. The speed increases incrementally with tension building organically apace. There’s a stretch near the end of the first piece that dips dangerously close to longueurs where Gjerstad’s tenor appears briefly bereft of directional purpose, but his partners swiftly swoop in to shore the gap with a shared focus. The B-Side develops more deliberately while exuding equal heat.
Stevens was also in charge of the studio controls and the clarity of the recording creates a sense of three-dimensional space, particularly regarding Dyani’s bass. Lightly amplified and closely miked, his stout strings convey an enveloping amount of weight and presence in complementary contrast to the drummer’s staggered and slanted beats. There are sections where his blurred strums approximate the power of single prop plane engines whirring to life and achieving airborne independence. Gjerstad wails and purrs, sounding frequently like he’s having the time of his life in the fast company of personal heroes. That palpable joie de vivre bleeds any sense of bitterness from the saxophonist’s postmortem summation, “Detail was too much jazz for the free music people and it was too far out for the jazz people.”
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