2007 / 2L
Review by Michael Debbage
For those of us stateside, the Norwegian name of this newcomer, Ola Gjeilo (YAY-lo), may not be an easy name to pronounce but it is a name that you will want to remember. Integrating his music with ingredients of classical, jazz and new age nuances, Gjeilo has done a glorious job of cross pollinating, creating a musical flower of significant fragrance courtesy of his debut, Stone Rose. Not only is it a most memorable debut, but it is also one of 2008’s top recordings.
So what makes this album so warm and intriguing? With a total of fifteen tracks, nine of them feature Gjeilo sitting at his piano alone, presenting his listeners with songs that are not cliché but at the same time not overdone. A perfect example is the soft and smooth “North County” which is then countered by the jubilee of the playful “Michelle”. If the girl he writes of is half as lively as the song then she must have been great company. “Roxbury Park” continues the playful theme, but not all the songs scream immediate gratification. Ola has his audience work a little for their listening pleasure courtesy of “The Line” whose wandering verses are complimented by a most memorable chorus.
The solo performances continue to impress throughout the album even when Ola is in a melancholy mood as found on the much improvised title track. Despite the barrage of inspiring unaccompanied performances, Ola keeps matters interesting by interfacing with three other performers on a total of six tracks. The first collaboration can be found on “The Hudson” as the pianist creates a glorious moment with Johannes Martens on the cello that is featured on five of the six accompanied tracks. Meanwhile, David Coucheron on violin joins Ola and Martens on “Sienna” which is probably the most classically based song on the album and one that takes a little more patience to fully appreciate. Meanwhile, Ola closes the album with “Serenity” which includes a very poignant performance with Tom Barber on flugelhorn.
Though Norwegian born, Gjeilo has spent some significant time in the cities of New York and Los Angeles and many of his songs are paying tribute to his time spent there. With an intermingling of solo performances and collaborations, at times Stone Rose is almost an album within an album but never at the expense of being divisive. Simply put, this is one of 2008’s best albums and when you considering the number of stellar albums released this year, that is no easy accomplishment.
August 8, 2008