Erik Andresen’s Quartet ‘GIP’ LP/CD (Jazzaggression) 4/5

The enlightened Jazzaggression Records from Finland have unearthed an extremely rare and collectable Norwegian album from Erik Andresen, a highly regarded and versatile musician who played both saxophone and clarinet to a high standard within numerous different musical contexts, from free jazz, big band to classical. This release recorded in 1970 and released a year later was Andresen’s only jazz quartet formation and issued on a non-jazz record label in small quantities but has now become somewhat of a ‘Holy Grail’ amongst the jazz vinyl collecting fraternity. The title ‘GIP’ is basically an acronym for Gerd Inger Polden, Andresen’s wife at the time, with the line-up consisting of Tore Nordlie on bass, Svein Christiansen on drums, Roy Hellvin on acoustic and electric piano and bandleader Erik Andresen playing alto saxophone.

The album begins with ‘Old Gospel’, a sprightly Ornette Coleman bebop composition rather than one of his free form moments. Better known as a Jackie McLean number (Coleman performed on McClean’s 1967 Blue Note version), the quartet maintains the bop tradition here with its purposeful but effective solos. ‘Ode A Jean-Louis’ is a dynamic piece written by Phil Woods, the influential US saxophonist who was living in Europe during the late 1960s and early ‘70s (more later), and during its 8 minute track length, meanders from its delicate intro to almost funky post-bop aesthetic.

Title track ‘GIP’ is a reflective and subtle piece centered around piano, drums and upright bass at its core, with Andresen’s very conversational saxophone augmenting the rhythm section perfectly. ‘Foot Prints’, the Wayne Shorter masterpiece of which there are over 100 cover versions, incorporates effective use of Fender Rhodes, which is the only time Roy Hellvin moves from acoustic to electric piano on the album. Probably the most fusion-esque track of the release; ‘Foot Prints’ allows Hellvin to adapt his playing style and phrasing a little, with definite early 1970s Herbie and Joe Sample influences apparent.

‘Cordon Bleu’ utilises a slight bossa nova rhythm for this infectious self-penned tune and ‘Sweet Georgia Bright’, a Charles Lloyd standard, is a touch more subdued than some of the more fiery versions, nonetheless, it functions as an excellent vehicle for pianist Hellvin and drummer Christiansen to showcase their fluid improvisational skills as well as Andresen’s disciplined alto work.

The album closes with ‘Chan and Phil’, which is presumably an ode to Phil Woods and his then wife Chan – although there’s no information to confirm this. Chan was also Charlie Parker’s partner at the time of his death in 1955 and mother to his two children, and thus, this is a thoughtful composition written for the couple who were both living in Paris at this time, with Woods becoming a massive influence on European jazz. This track is taken from a different session to the rest of the album and was recorded in 1969 for Norwegian radio station NRK and features a slightly different line-up that includes Egil Kapstad on piano.

Unusually for a modern reissue, the vinyl also includes a CD pressing of the album (or the other-way-around depending on your preference). As someone who only buys vinyl but also appreciates the convenience of digital music files, this is obviously welcomed. And additionally, there is also a separate 10” vinyl-only release by the label of two extra tracks taken from the same session as ‘Chan and Phil’, called ‘Cointreau’ and ‘Inner Urge’, which was originally created by Joe Henderson and is of the same high quality as the album.

The early 1970s were a fruitful time for European jazz, with Erik Andresen Quartet’s ‘GIP’ another highly recommended and fascinating inclusion to any jazz record collection, especially considering the excellent remastering work undertaken for this reissue.

Damian Wilkes