From Bluero's liner-notes
A FREE INTRO
Sometimes making a mistake can result in new creative fire. The name for the title track of this album, for instance, was the result of an accident. I was recording a sketch of the tune on my 6-track recording device, and to locate the tune on the hard disc, I had to give it a name. Temporarily I simply just call it "BLUES", because that was what it was, a 12-bar blues-riff in B-flat. But, as I pressed the keys for "BLUES", I stumbled and hit some wrong ones and before I knew it, the misspelled name was stored by pressing "enter". I looked at the screen announcing in black capital letters on an orange background: "BLUERO". My first reaction was to immediately press "change name" thinking –oops, made a mistake, must correct... But, then I looked at the screen again, realizing that the name actually sounded kind of cool. It was short, easy and funky, just like the tune itself. I realized that I had just received a gift! By accident, a new word had been created, a heretofore unknown word, to my knowledge. I realized I would not have discovered this word if I hadn't composed the tune, taken the bother to work for hours to make it sound right on my multitrack-recorder and finally, exhausted, trying to write "BLUES", ending the project of the day by punching the keys fast and furiously at a rate exceeding the speed limit for my writing-ability.
UP FOR A HISTORY LESSON?
Through the years, I have been asked over and over again about how, when and where I learned to play and how the trio came together. These liner notes being our forum, I might as well use it to shed some light on who we are, where we came from and how we got together, so the following provides a glimpse into our history.
THOSE WERE THE DAYS
I remember my good friend, bass player Konrad Kaspersen (b.1948) telling me about a golden age of jazz in Northern-Norway. During the '70s, he used to work with the musicians based around the Narvik area, among them one of Norway's finest bop-trombonists, Viggo Hansen (1943-1994). Sometimes before a gig, they would gather over at Viggo's, and his son of about 12 would be practicing his drums down in the basement. It was easy to hear that his was a talent well above the average, with the most natural inclination to Swing, heartfelt musicality and a devilish attitude, ready to kick-start any soloist. In fact, this boy-wonder would be playing professionally with Narvik's Jazz-Guitar legend Thorgeir Stubø (1943-1986) from the early age of 14. This was Trond Sverre Hansen, born on January 27, 1964. Already at this tender age, he developed the highly personal style that would make him one of Norway’s foremost drummers. His qualities consisted of the ability to groove sidemen half to death, spontaneously creative percussive fireworks combining both roughness and finesse. For inspiration, he drew on a wide range of drummers from Philly "Joe" Jones, Buddy Rich, Steve Gadd, Grady Tate, Billy Higgins to Tony Williams. Trond Sverre recalls that one of the albums that had the greatest impact on him as a young man, was the hardcore jazz-album, from 1977, "V.S.O.P.-the Quintet". It featured the legend, Williams, together with four other superstars in the personages of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard and Ron Carter. What is also a funny coincidence is that Trond Sverre at this point in life was also one of the most promising junior speed skaters in Norway, with the 1500-meter as his speciality! But at 17, he had to make a choice, which resulted in his shelving the skates, making room for music, which to an increasingly larger degree began to obsess. But his career in sports was not in vain, as he later recalled, because in terms of drumming and endurance, he is able to take advantage of much of the same training psychology as he used as a speed-skater. In 1988, he moved to North-Norway’s largest city, Tromsø, where together with Konrad on bass, he soon established himself as the "first call" rhythm-section for any jazz-gig up north. From 1991 to 1994 both of them were members of the group "Jazz i Nord", which also comprised Øystein B. Blix on trombone and Jørn Øien on piano. This was the third publicly financed jazz-group in Nothern-Norway, which is well-documented on the CD, "Song fall soft", featuring singer, Marit Sandvik. After Jazz i Nord, Trond Sverre participated in piano player Knut Kristiansen’s "Monk-project", which resulted in the fine album, "Monk Moods". This group played an inspirational concert at the club "Smutthullet" in Alta the fall of '94, just days before I was to make my debut as a jazz musician.
THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
My story begins in Tromsø, were I was born the 24 May 1973. I grew up a bit further north, in the small village of Øksfjord. Here, livings were made primarily in the fishing industry, were my parents worked.
Both of them were music lovers and as a young man, my father even won a couple of amateur singing contests: he also played the harmonica. One of my first childhood memories is sitting by my parents’ stereo, listening to their records. They had everything from Jim Reeves to Abba, Norwegian and German popular music, Swedish accordion music and Nat King Cole. Eventually, they got me and my younger sister some Norwegian children’s records and when I think of it in retrospect, some of it was very spiced with both jazz and Norwegian folklore. My discovery of Elvis at the age of 6 directed my attention towards the guitar and the drums. But the shock of experiencing a Kiss video on the TV, really made me want to be in a band. I was involved with the children’s choir at church from the age of seven, and in my spare time, I mimicked my heroes, using my mother’s pillows as drums and homemade fantasy guitars of wooden planks and plywood. My mother realized that her son’s greatest love was music and bought me a junior set of drums and an acoustic guitar when I was 8. Eleven years old, I was lucky enough to be selected for a school band. Here I was the drummer, but soon the lead guitar player and I traded instruments. From that point on, I wanted to be involved with both melodic and harmonic aspects of music. One of the impetuses for this was a Jimi Hendrix TV-special I watched. I remember that we jammed together almost every day in my parents’ basement, where I had the drum-kit and my first electric guitar. We also rehearsed in a studio which had an 8-track tape-recorder that only the grown-ups were allowed to touch. Secretly, we experimented with our music, recording it on the 8-track, mixing and mastering it to conventional stereo-cassettes and deleting the 8-track tapes before the adults could discover them. My favorite bands through my early teens were (with the exception of Dire Straits) all hard-rock and heavy-metal bands. This was a natural thing, because for a number of reasons, I was suppressing a lot of anger and felt very frustrated. Through this music, it was possible to let off some steam and get some relief. Several copies of tapes and records by Kiss, Dio, TNT, Queenryche and Iron Maiden were worn out, and guitar heroes like Gary Moore and Yngwie Malmsteen represented what could be done on the instrument. I delved into their stuff, adopting it by ear, never copying the exact notes, but improvising freely in their styles. My bands at this point were clearly influenced by the neo-classical Malmsteen, which in turn was what made me curious about Bach. I attended the musical track at the upper secondary school in Alta in '89, more or less abandoning the rock-circus, fed up by the high volume-levels that drowned every musical detail. Several offers came from bands who wanted me as their guitar player, but I turned them down, mainly concentrating on the classical guitar. At the musical track, I was exposed to a large range of various music from Vivaldi, Mozart, Debussy, Loyd Webber to Stravinsky. Here I met my mentor, Svein Kaurin, who also heard me jam with some classmates. He thought I sounded like a cross between Al Di Meola and Paco De Lucia, but, these gentlemen were at the time strangers to me, as my only preference was a certain Swede. Kaurin understood that even if my mind was focused on classical music for the next two or three years, I still was a natural improviser, whereupon he introduced me to jazz via records that featured greats like Joe Pass, Django Reinhardt, Doug Raney and Thorgeir Stubø. I started jamming with some Django-enthusiasts from my class, that also were "die hard" fans of the Norwegian jazz guitar-genius, Robert Normann (1916-1998). At the time, there was a sort of celebration going on, on the occasion of the CD-release of Normann’s collected recordings. The national broadcasting network, NRK, had also put together a documentary which featured all of his legendary TV-broadcasts from the '70s. My class mates had seen this and were talking about the guitar-phenomenon all the time. I had for some reason missed out on it all and was rather envious, not having a single clue about who he was and what he represented. Therefore I decided to go to the record-store and check out what everybody was talking about. After seeing the cover on one of the CD's, I instantly knew that this was one of my childhood heroes! It was the nameless hero I had watched several times a day as a kid. This was NRK's man behind the interval interludes between the actual programs so, yes, I was also a jazz fan from early age.
THE MELTING POT
After finishing the music track, I was loaded with new impressions. All this exposure to the freedom and hidden treasures of jazz changed my view of music forever. This was what I had been searching for. Although I couldn't play it yet, I knew I was home. I was 19 and realizing that a long journey was ahead of me, no time was wasted. For the next couple of years, I sequestered myself, did a lot of soul-searching, and explored this wonderful new world. The discovery of the guitar-playing of Kenny Burrell, Jim Hall and George Benson opened up new doors, just as digging further into the records by Thorgeir Stubø, featuring Swedish tenor saxophone greats Bernt Rosengren and Krister Andersson, did. A number of visits were made to the public library in Øksfjord, which had all the Norwegian Jazz recordings. My first live-jazz experiences really gave me some kicks. I witnessed "Trondheim bop-service" with the steady accompaniment of guitarist Ove Bjørken and later on, the organ unit, "The Real Thing" with guitar-virtuoso Staffan William-Olsson. This made me realize that it was time to form my own jazz band, exploring all the new ideas in real playing situations. I got together with a couple of friends from the college days and my first jazz band, "Alta Jazz Trio", with the lineup of guitar, drums and electric bass was a reality. We had our official debut at the club, "Smutthullet" in the fall of '94. The owner, Mia Gabourel, being a jazz enthusiast herself, was an important person who made it possible for young musicians to explore their ideas on the bandstand. Smutthullet represented a blossoming environment, where culture aficionados, artists and musicians enjoyed their daily beer. A couple of jazz enthusiasts from the south of Norway introduced me to some urban culture and played me great stuff by guitarists Pat Martino, Emely Remler, John Scofield, Pat Metheny and John McLaughlin. At about this time I started to get involved in several projects as a freelancer. Among them a "Glenn Miller-tribute", were I played for the first time on an acoustic bass treated by Konrad Kaspersen. My own band, Alta Jazz Trio, had several featured guests. Among them the Norwegian saxophone virtuoso Petter Wettre. This marked my first time playing with a "real" soloist, which drew my attention further towards the legends of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Chet Baker and John Coltrane. In the spring of '95 I had the joy of experiencing jazz guitar-master, Louis Stewart, playing live at Smutthullet, together with the "first call" rhythm-section up north and guitarist Øystein Norvoll. An inspirational conversation with Mr. Stewart gave me conformation about that I was on "the right track". Alta Jazz Trio was slowly on the wane in the beginning of '96, when I was "saved" by a phone-call. It was from a talented young bass player from the city of Hammerfest, Dag Erik Pedersen. He had heard about me, and wanted me to come over for a gig. We were both lonely "cats" in the northern wilderness, and we were in quest of something more. I played my favorite recordings for him, and he introduced me properly to legends Bud Powell, Dexter Gordon, Clifford Brown and Sonny Rollins. Together with the great Rumanian piano player, Constantin "Nuti" Tanase, we formed a new trio, inspired by Chick Corea and the drumless trios of Oscar Peterson. We were busy touring, with major plans being made, when tragedy struck on December 29, 1997. Nuti died of a heart attack following a gig. He was only 39. For his memorial concert at "Smutthullet" a month later, Dag and I had Trond Sverre and Øystein Norvoll come in from Tromsø. This resulted in a joyful gig, worthy of Nuti's memory. We decided to continue as a band and took the name "Bebop Guitars". Meeting Norvoll, surely opened up my horizon. He was Norway’s foremost "jazz-quiz" master, in the possession of unlimited knowledge about jazz history. As the owner of Norway’s "best" jazz record collection, he played me all the great albums featuring guitar legends Tal Farlow and Jimmy Raney, stuff I had been searching after for years. We had fun playing a lot of duets together, picking tunes for the band. Soon, all the North-Norwegian festivals were on our touring list, as Bebop Guitars were chosen to represent North Norwegian Jazz Forum on their 30-years anniversary. We even recorded a radio-broadcast (my first) for NRK, in August of '99, but, minor disagreements were already beginning to surface, resulting in our break up the following year. At this point, I had already started a wonderful new musical relationship with the young trumpet star, Tore Johansen. Among other things, this resulted in the CD, Tore Johansen: "Windows", released in 2003. On "Bluero", I try to parallel his beautiful ballad "Alone", which has become a standard among jazz musicians from the Nordic countries.
Trond Sverre had asked me back in August '98 if he, Konrad and I might join forces. He told me that both he and Konrad were really into my playing and that they felt we had the same kind of musical agenda. Since pianist Jørn Øien had moved south to the capital, Oslo, they didn't have a working combo anymore. Together with Øien, they had represented one of my all time favorite trios, with the most vital way of swinging, impeccable timing, warmth and the will to explore. My first thought was – hey, wake up, this is a dream! But I pinched myself and found I was fully awake. I mean, this was the number one rhythm-section up north! Was I worthy of being a member of the band? How did I fit in?! Could this possibly work without a second chord instrument? Back in '94, with my first jazz-band, I had played in the same constellation, but at that time I did it against better judgment. Well, this time I jumped right into it, and Hallgeir Pedersen Trio had its first public appearance at the small club "Bak Mål" in the city of Tromsø 22 April 1999. For the next couple of years, we searched for a repertoire and found inspirational sources in Wes Montgomery and the Keith Jarrett Trio. In November, 2001, we were granted a national tour by the Norwegian Jazz-Association. At this point I got a call from NRK's jazz-producer Erling Wicklund (who also produced the "Bebop Guitars" broadcast back in '99). He wanted to record us live in concert, for a radio-special. To make a short story even shorter, we did it! After the concert was aired, we received numerous calls from fans who wondered where they could get hold of our albums. Of course at this point, there weren't any, so, we thought: Maybe it's about time?! Luckily, Erling Wicklund thought the same thing. He wanted to produce a CD based on the live recordings. This became the debut-album for me and the trio as well. Hallgeir Pedersen Trio: "West Coast Blues", was ready to be released the summer of 2002, but our luck was about to change. Just before the CD-release, Konrad was the victim of an accident, which left him with a stiff neck and two paralyzed fingers! As friend and fellow guitarist, Øystein Norvoll put it, regarding Konrad’s absence from the North-Norwegian jazz scene: "It felt like three of the house’s four walls had collapsed!". At about the time of the CD-release, the young, incredibly talented bass player, Steinar Raknes, stepped in for Konrad. He also did the NRK/EBU jazz series "Jazz around the World" with the trio in March, 2003. But when it was time to cut the trio’s second album, Raknes was booked months ahead on a tour with his own band. A replacement had to be made quickly. In this case, I only had one phone number on my list.
THE GRAND MASTER
Bjørn Alterhaug had been the natural choice for my project with the Swedish tenor saxophone giant Bernt Rosengren, early in 2003. Now it looked like there was an opening to work with this master bassist again. It became clear from the first moment that Bjørn loved the idea of the concept. He showed up on short notice and instantly became an integral part of the trio. Hallgeir Pedersen Trio: "Wistful" was recorded in November 2003, and released the following summer. After this, it was natural for Bjørn to continue as the trio’s bass player, since he participated on the recording and the upcoming tours. The first time I noticed his name, was back at the music track in Alta in 1990. We were shown a video in connection with a project on "Cool Jazz". Here Bjørn Played with his "New Cool Quartet". Back then I didn't understand all of what was going on, only that I liked the sound and that the music was swinging. The next time the name Bjørn Alterhaug popped up, was in '92 at the library, as I was checking out the Norwegian Jazz records. It was rather difficult to avoid, as Bjørn was featured on one third of the recordings! I met him for the first time in Tromsø, November 7, 1998. Bjørn was leading a workshop at the Conservatory and because of his visit, a big jam was held in his honour. The featured jam-band was him on bass, Trond Sverre on drums, organ player Kurt Samuelsen and me on guitar. Konrad was also present and sat in for Bjørn on a couple of tunes. This was actually Hallgeir Pedersen Trio's first "try-out"! It's funny to think that even though we shared the stage with several other musicians, both the first and the current line-up of the trio was present that evening! Personally, I feel like I have known Bjørn forever. This is probably due to the fact that during my lifetime, he has participated in countless TV and radio broadcasts, infiltrating my subconscious. So, why do so many artists want to work with Bjørn Alterhaug? For one: His sound is unique! Two: He knows that "bass means low" (or as he puts it: "Love"!). Three: He is a nice guy. With his wonderful sense of humor and really down-to-earth personality, he always contributes to making a “pleasant” working atmosphere. To tell Bjørn’s story, we have to go back to the 3 June 1945 in Mo I Rana, were he was born. In this North-Norwegian town, dominated by the iron and steel industry, he grew up and was lucky enough to be around at a time when Norway had only one national radio channel. NRK was obliged to play all kinds of music from Bach, Schönberg, Norwegian folklore, Ellington via Ella to Elvis. In this way, young Alterhaug was exposed to very different types of music from an early age. Ten years old, he took up the guitar to play at local dances with his older brother, who happened to be a bass player. Soon, he got interested in the sound of his brother’s upright bass, which he switched to at the age of twelve. He sharpened his ears by continually jamming along with the radio, until every type of music played there was a "no match". His first jazz hero was guitarist Wes Montgomery - maybe an echo of Wes can be heard in his composition "Bluza 33", composed on the 33 floor at the Plaza Hotel in Oslo. The sound of John Coltrane's tenor saxophone really captured his imagination next, and he got his first real bass hero in Ray Brown by becoming a true fan of the Oscar Peterson Trio. In the 60's, the second great quintet of Miles, with bass player Ron Carter, got his full attention, but his first "Bass-shock", which he claims he never has healed from, was hearing Scott LaFaro with the Bill Evans trio. A second shock came in experiencing the impossible technical feats by the then young Niels Henning Ørsted-Pedersen. Bjørn would later study with NHØP in Copenhagen for some days in '72. He remembers being very excited and in awe the day he arrived at NHØP's residence, but, when he extended his hand to greet his admired colleague, NHØP broke the solemn moment by exclaiming: "Gosh, Bjørn, I wish I had your hands, it would have made everything that much easier!" NHØP was gazing at Bjørns XXL-sized and incredibly powerful hands. These hands would in turn make Bjørn the unofficial arm-wrestling champion among musicians, but that's another story! On this album I am proud to have him playing "Old Bass", my compositional tribute to the venerable instrument and its Grand Masters. This includes Bjørn’s heroes already mentioned, in addition to players like Terje Venaas, Red Mitchell, Konrad Kaspersen, Gary Peacock, Paul Chambers and Erik Amundsen. The piece was written for Bjørn to play and the loss of NHØP in 2005 was what actually triggered my writing it. To continue the story of Bjørn, it can be said that during his secondary school days in Mo I Rana, he had his first jazz band consisting of some talented local musicians, but he soon moved to Trondheim in 1966 to study music. Bjørn has since then been an important part of jazz, as the first-choice bass player for visiting greats such as Joe Henderson, Lee Konitz, Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Lucky Thompson and Ben Webster. He has made three albums in his own name: "Moments" (winner of the Norwegian Grammy in 1979), "A Ballad" (1986) and "Constellations" (1991). As an author he has written several important essays on improvisation and been an international contributor and panel participant on the topic. He is a contemporary composer of merit, both in classical and jazz music. As a musician he has been a bridge-builder between generations, always lifting new talent into the spotlight, and last but not least he has been a key figure for "jazz" education in Norway.
Today, he holds his post as Professor of music at the University in Trondheim. One of his strongest beliefs is that the academic community has much to learn from jazz. He emphasizes the importance of using improvisation as a tool in job-related situations, because the scenarios change fast, and he feels that it's impossible to make a good decision before you see the whole picture. Of course it's good to have a goal, but if you miss out on taking advantage of the process, you lose out on something of great value. But still, as a professor, he feels that the day he stops being a performing musician is the day he will stop teaching, and the element that has always been his foundation is nothing less than “the joy of playing music”! For me personally, it's an honor to work with a man of his stature. I don't understand where he gets his energy, being involved in all the projects mentioned above, and this guy is over 60! I have worked with bass players half his age, but few of them come close to Bjørn when it comes to both creativity and stamina. To point out some of his qualities as a musician, I want to draw the attention to the pure power he can generate, his ability to interact and his knowledge of harmony, reflected in his lines. I also have the privilege, once again, of being able to work with one of the greatest drummers I know, my brother-in-arms, Trond Sverre Hansen.
Making this recording was a real treat. On a couple of chilly days, we went into the warm atmosphere of Rainbow Studio, having fun, just trying to make some music. The chosen material for the most part was all new to us, things we hadn’t become too familiar with. For us, this is a good thing in many ways, which gives the music an edge and makes it sound fresh. I sincerely hope you will like the final result coming out of this joyful session!
A FREE OUTRO
Sometimes in Jazz we receive "gifts", because a creative jazz musician is always pushing himself and often playing to the outer edge of his ability. In this way "accidents" will sooner or later occur. I welcome these “mistakes”, because I see them as stepping stones for new creativity. In this way the intuition and your subconscious fully takes over and in the state of panic (if you dare to enter), you will play things you didn't know you were capable of. At the moment you may feel that nothing is happening, thinking -oops, I screwed up... But if you listen back to it, something magical may have occurred, maybe you even played the true You?! It may be a simple fragile melody, or an aggressive, poly-rhythmical, atonal passage. Some people call it luck when you unearth these hidden treasures. But if you didn't bother to travel all the way to NYC and get lost in that back-alley, you wouldn't have found that Vintage-record store with all the classics on vinyl, right?!! You would never have been exposed to these musical-gifts if you hadn't been practicing, studying and playing for all these years. You fully deserve them, just as I believe I did when I discovered the title for this album.
Hallgeir Pedersen Alta, September, 2006.
WORLD CLASS GUITAR PLAYER
So, what's so special then? Even among jazz-fans, there are quite a few who has the opinion that guitar playing in the bebop tradition easily becomes boring stuff. Fast runs up and down the neck, naturally with altered chords and complex harmonic lines, but still monotonous when it comes down to it. What is it that Hallgeir Pedersen is doing in the year of 2006, which creates excitement and enthusiasm for jazz guitar in this particular genre and makes critics, musicians and audiences to talk in awe about "The Phantom from Øksfjord"? Much of the answer lies in details, important details. Of course it's about an absolute command of tonal and harmonic context and an incredible technique, but especially and most important it's about finding your own personal sound of expression. It's about creating phrases that are a little bit different, with surprising accentuations and a genuine approach to rhythm. It's about connecting jazz tradition with all your musical history in a natural way so you become the music and the music becomes you. Some of the answers lie between these lines, but most of the answer lies beyond what is possible to explain and that is the true nature of music! We can never verbalize or analyze it to a fully extend. If we could, we wouldn't need it, and then again what would be the meaning of life?
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