Jostein Gulbrandsen - Looking Ahead

Label: Curling Legs Records, 2018

Personnel - Jostein Gulbrandsen: guitar; Megumi Yonezawa: piano; Mike McGuirk: bass; Mark Ferber: drums.

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Rising Norwegian guitarist Jostein Gulbrandsen, a New York resident since 2001, releases “Looking Ahead”, its third album and first in quartet formation, with the help of mates he has been gigging with lately, namely: pianist Megumi Yonezawa, bassist Mike McGuirk, and drummer Mark Ferber.

The album, comprising eight Gulbrandsen originals, brims with the modern mainstream he advocates. The opening track, “Gee Wheez”, blends the energy of John Scofield and the soulful, bluesy feel of Grant Green. The bandleader opens the improvisational section with bopish fluidity, followed by Yonezawa and McGuirk. Each of them provides the listener with nice melodies and pronounced rhythmic insight.

Cold Times”, probably the most engaging tune on the record, also evinces a Scofield-esque bite, never eschewing that smell of immortal, country-ish blues that characterize most of his work. Enthusiastically, guitarist and pianist exchange ideas before the final theme is put back.

Other two compositions that include bar trades are the energetically swinging “Unbroken Circles” and the 12-bar blues “Monkey Biz”. Besides the expected solos, both songs highlight Ferber, whose versatile attacks and rhythmic agility are further adorned with subtle fills on the former piece. On the latter, he alternates entire choruses with McGuirk.

The guitarist has a penchant for medium-tempo waltzes - “Psalm”, “New Tune”, and the album’s closer “Another Waltz” are tunes controlled by a steady 3/4 signature meter. However, it was with the title track, a relaxing Metheny-influenced exercise, that the guitarist impressed me the most, composition-wise. Yonezawa, an emerging talent who moves into avant-garde territories in her own projects, solidly flanks him here, perfectly adapted to the more familiar post-bop atmosphere.

Gulbrandsen’s music is to the point, revealing tasteful moments where there’s no necessity of camouflaging his numerous influences. This is an unavoidable process that makes him search for his own identity and look ahead.

 Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Gee Wheez ► 02 - Looking Ahead ► 05 - Cold Times