Ola Gjeilo
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Ola Gjeilo


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""This young musician has embarked on a hopefully long and gloriously successful career with this rather marvellous calling card""

This is Norwegian composer and pianist Ola Gjeilo’s first ‘solo’ album, and following on from considerable success as a performing artist this release has been much anticipated by fans. The contemplative nature of his playing is a defining factor in his style, and in the interview booklet notes he cites Keith Jarrett as an example of one whose work he has found attractive in the past. ‘Contemplative’ need not be confused with somnolent however, and as numbers such as the opening Snow in New York and Michelle show that more up-tempo numbers are very much a part of Gjeilo’s package of goodies. Pieces like Roxbury Park and the Lyle Mays sound-alike Manhattan roll along with a relaxed and open character, and could only come from a deep affinity with American culture.

While most of these tracks are indeed solo work, there are a number of other musicians involved. Cellist Johannes Martens appears on the super-romantic tunes The Hudson, and Sidewalk, both of which run the risk of melting your loudspeakers, such is the sweetness of their effusion. He also contributes to Madison, which is also powerfully sentimental but has a less overtly obvious melodic structure. Violinist David Coucheron joins in to form a trio with the piano and cello in Sienna, which has a typically rolling and full-sounding accompaniment to simple melodic phrases which speak directly and clearly. The beautiful North Country II sees the flugelhorn of Tom Barber adding its own special sonority to the piano and cello mix. Of the numbers with added instruments this is a clear favourite, with plenty of soulful twists and turns over the relatively straightforward descending bass line in the piano’s left hand. Barber also helps close the album with Serenity, which rumbles along fairly innocuously to start with, but develops quite a head of steam over the 5 minutes of its duration.

Recording label 2L’s Lindberg Lyd was nominated for ‘Best Surround Sound’ at the Grammies in 2007, and the symbiosis between Ola Gjeilo’s playing and producers and engineers sympathetic to creating the best possible piano sound has produced something of a demonstration disc when it comes to sound quality. Exploration of sonority and harmonic relationships are an interesting element in Gjeilo’s music, and it would seem he is as much at home with the classics as with the kind of ‘country’ jazz which often crops up here. There are whiffs of Erik Satie in the hymn like title track Stone Rose, and to a certain extent in the lyrical grace of April, and the rise and return gesture which opens January reminds me of Richard Strauss’s In Abendrot.

At his best, Ola Gjeilo produces some marvellous piano playing coupled with an intelligent and deeply felt compositional style. Many of the tracks are relatively short, and none outstay their welcome, but you will have to be in tune with and appreciate his particular heart-on-sleeve expression and manner to love the whole album. For me some of the pieces overflow into a rather too facile and emotive idiom to be entirely successful or durable. This is a very fine line of course, and when the whole thing works we get potential classics. If you like the more introverted Keith Jarrett of The Koln Concert coupled with, dare I say it, some of the kind of writing which has helped artists like Elton John do reasonably well for themselves, then I would heartily recommend this disc. This young musician has embarked on a hopefully long and gloriously successful career with this rather marvellous calling card, but I suspect he will have a great deal more to offer with the added depths of age and further experience.

- Dominy Clements

- MusicWeb UK

""Repeated listening to this disc for the past three months has been a pleasure""

This is a lovely disc of lyrical short original compositions, performed primarily by the composer-pianist. Mainly in a jazz or jazz/popular idiom, this SACD can be confidently recommended to fans of jazz, popular, folk and new age music.

The 'audiophile disc' has received plenty of deserved derision for presenting in stunning sound music either of dubious worth, or classical/jazz standards utilising performers who mightn't otherwise have obtained a recording contract. The SACD era has seen many small labels, primarily in the classical domain, which have proven this contention wrong. The Norwegian '2L' label for me has consistently produced demonstration quality recorded piano sound from a variety of venues. This release is no different. It is to be hoped that many audiophiles will hear this SACD and perhaps use it as a test disc in place of the many rather strange music selections one hears in hi-fi shows!

Ola Gjeilo has a website : http://www.olagjeilo.com
This young [ b 1978 ] Norwegian studied classical composition at the Royal College of Music, London, gained a Masters in composition at Juilliard and is based in America. This SACD comprises 15 compositions ranging from 2 to 5 minutes in length. It is clearly aimed at the North American market, with titles such as 'Snow in New York', the upbeat and catchy opening number; to 'the Hudson', 'Manhattan', and 'Madison'; and a stylised Manhattan skyline sans the WTC on the back cover. There are also cameos for the violin, cello and flugelhorn [ a wider bore instrument than a trumpet with a darker, more plangent tone ].

Despite his European ancestry, Gjeilo is one of a large number of young composers rigorously trained in one of the great American conservatories, who have eschewed the hypercomplexity of contemporary academic classical compositions which have never found favour with the wider public. Listening to this tonal music, played with typical jazz swing and cadential closings, it is almost impossible to detect any influence of European 20th century art music. If one wanted to select a Norwegian metaphor, some of the melodies and general form could be considered as middle period Grieg 'Lyric Pieces' for piano, transplanted across the Atlantic with an unassuming jazz workover. The couple of flugelhorn and piano pieces are reminiscent of simplified Burt Bacharach-style pop arrangements.

Repeated listening to this disc for the past three months has been a pleasure. The compositions do repay multiple hearings, and also make good late night listening with friends. The ordering of the 15 pieces isn't random, but has some internal logic which gives a satisfying psychological progression.

The disc was recorded on a Steinway model C in a Norwegian church. The piano tone has great harmonic richness without being over-reverberant. It demonstrates the huge advances made in digital recordings of the piano from the shallow brittle sound of many early 1980s keyboard atrocities. The sensation of live performers in one's listening room is tangible.

- Ramesh Nair - SA-CD.net

""A well-performed and recorded album of classically-influenced new age music""

This is a contemplative and melodic collection of mostly piano solos by Norwegian pianist Gjeilo, who has performed around the world as is especially taken with New York City, as shown by the titles of several of the tracks here. The recording was made in the acoustics of a church in Oslo and the piano tone is very natural, as is the placement of the various guest performers. Tom Barber’s solo on North Country II is striking and a fine demo of the advantages of well-recorded surround sound even for a simple ensemble such as this.

In his notes the pianist mentions that both Keith Jarrett and Glenn Gould have been uppermost as influences. Sorry, but I couldn’t hear the slightest connection with either one, but that doesn’t detract from a well-performed and recorded album of classically-influenced new age music.

- John Sunier - Audiophile

""His sensitive & tender keyboard stylings are the ideal accompaniment for an evening of romance, relaxation or fine dining""

Pianist Ola Gjeilo connects with listeners at many levels...all of them at the peak of perfection. His sensitive & tender keyboard stylings are the ideal accompaniment for an evening of romance, relaxation or fine dining. Gjeilo's creations will appeal to fans of all musical genres. "Stone Rose" is an album of rich piano textures, augmented by tasteful arrangements & sensitive sidemen, Tom Barber (flugelhorn), David Coucheron (violin) & Johannes Martens (cello). Audiophiles will also be impressed by the superb production quality from the Norwegian label 2L.

Capt. Christopher
WTUL Radio
Cheezmuzik Director
New Orleans, LA
- WTUL Radio

"“…you will be enthralled by this fabulous debut album”"

The song title is in a way the only lyrics in instrumental music. A few handpicked words describe a whole track. For some artists the name of a song is unimportant, and for other it is essential. When listening to Norwegian pianist and composer Ola Gjeilo’s debut album Stone Rose I found that the track name was of great importance. Here the name is a starting point for the imagination, something to tune your mind to. Gjeilo’s music is very visual, and the title gives meaning to the track. Or you may of course let your mind drift away and not focus on the title at all. Either way, you will be enthralled by this fabulous debut album.

Ola Gjeilo was born in Norway in 1978, and he now lives in New York City. Stone Rose was released in Scandinavia in October last year, and is now being released in the U.S. Many new age piano artists are self thought, or have only a little formal training. There is nothing wrong with that, but when compared to a piano player of Gjeilo’s format – who has studied at the Royal College of Music in London and has a Mater’s Degree in composition at the Juilliard School of Music – the difference is obvious. Gjeilo is nothing less than a piano virtuoso.

An important aspect of Stone Rose is the high quality recording. It is produced by the Grammy-nominated Lindberg Lyd at Sofienberg church in Oslo, Norway. This means that it is not a studio recording, and you can feel the natural resonance of the room – which I think is a bonus. The piano recording is flawless, and this gives the album a nice and polished touch; you can play it loud, and still there is little or no static noise. The album is being released as a Hybrid Super Audio-CD with 5.1 Surround. The supreme quality of the recording is also audible if you purchase it on iTunes – but if you want the best, you better buy the CD.

Stone Rose consists of 15 short tracks. Most of them are around 3 minutes long. The atmosphere is fresh and uplifting – but also somewhat uncomplicated. It may be too light for some tastes. But at the same time Gjeilo’s style is dreamy and full of impressions. This is perhaps what makes Stone Rose into a typical new age album? It is definitely not jazz or classical. But I must point out that this is not music for meditation either. This is the music you want in the background when you are having your friends over for dinner, or are walking on the beach on a bright winter day listening to your iPod. It is a sound track, pure and simple.

The album is not strictly solo piano. On track 5, 9, 12, 13 and 14 you can hear David Coucheron on violin and Johannes Martens on cello. On track 14 and 15 Tom Barber plays flugelhorn. This gives variation to the recording. Especially the tracks with violin can remind of another Norwegian band – Rolf Lovland’s Secret Garden. But there is nothing wrong with that. It is rather a statement quality, since Secret Garden has sold millions of albums.

The first track, Snow in New York, is simply incredible. You only have to listen to the album for a minute or so and you know two things; Ola Gjeilo is a highly skilled piano player and great composer. You can almost see the season’s first falling snow between the skyscrapers. The track has the enthusiasm of a child when it comes to winter and snow.

After the fast and uplifting opening, North Country is more slow and reflective. But it is a beautiful track, not too long either. Track three, Michelle, is happy and uncomplicated. This song is almost like a conversation, rapidly changing speed but the mood stays the same. The Line is the best solo piano track on the album, and the theme around 2min20sec is played with passion and skill. It is jazz and neoclassical at the same time, and an example of Gjeilo’s qualities both as a piano player and composer.

What makes a song played with piano and violin new age? It is hard to point out, but when you listen to track no. five, The Hudson, you feel that there is something meditative and dreamy about the song. It is that thing that makes you love or hate new age music. If Gjeilo wanted to create a standard jazz or neoclassical recording, all hope was out when this song was finished. It is new age, no doubt about that. You can almost see the setting sun over the Hudson when playing the song. Roxbury Park is yet another fresh track, much like Michelle. It is pleasant like a walk in the park.

I am a little bit surprised by the title track, Stone Rose. It is a bit dark and slow. At the same time it has a lot of beauty, in a contemplative way. Stone Rose is the first of three slow piano tracks. The two other are January and April. They are a bit cold, but then so are roses of stone…

The last solo piano track on the album is track no. 10, Manhattan. This song has the rhythm of the big city. The melody is very nice and I found myself hitting the replay button several times – because it is way too short! The 1min54sec is gone in a flash.

Madison has a strong melody, and the - NewAgeMusic.nu

""Just when I thought there couldn’t be any more favorites for the year, along comes Ola Gjeilo’s “Stone Rose” and blows me away""

I have to say again what an incredible year 2008 has been for piano music. Just when I thought there couldn’t be any more favorites for the year, along comes Ola Gjeilo’s “Stone Rose” and blows me away. With the opening bars of the first track, Gjeilo had my full attention, and it never wavered throughout the album. Gjeilo’s music includes a great deal of improvisation, making it spontaneous and fresh, but it is also very melodic and harmonically rich. More classical than pop with jazz influences as well, Geijo’s debut CD is a force to be reckoned with. The Norwegian-born and New York-based Gjeilo (pronounced Yay-lo) started studying jazz, classical piano, and composition at the age of seven. He continued his studies at London’s Royal College of Music and earned his Masters Degree at New York’s prestigious Juilliard School in 2006. While studying classical composition at Juilliard, Gjeilo decided that he wasn’t composing the music he really loved and returned to his beloved piano. The majority of the tracks on “Stone Rose” are solo piano, but Gjeilo is joined on several tracks by Tom Barber on horn, and Johannes Martens and David Coucheron on strings. I’ve listened to “Stone Rose” about a dozen times now, and love it more each time. I’m going to be hard-pressed to narrow down a 2008 Favorites list, but “Stone Rose” will definitely be on that list!

“Stone Rose” is one of those rare albums that has no weak tracks. Some of the fifteen pieces are quiet and meditative while others are more energetic, but all of them are wonderful. “Snow In New York” opens the CD with a burst of enthusiasm and joy that pulls you in immediately. Rhythmic and vibrantly alive, it provides an auspicious beginning! “North Country” takes the pace down to a peaceful calm that shimmers with beauty. “The Line” is one of my favorites and reminds me of Philip Aaberg’s meditations on the wide-open spaces of Montana. Beginning very pensively, it gradually picks up the tempo as it evolves, opening itself up and revealing its lighter side as well. “The Hudson” is a delicate and soulful duet for piano and cello - one of my favorite combinations. “Roxbury Park” is one of the more pop-oriented pieces with a melody strong enough to support lyrics. The light, carefree energy is infectious. The title track is Gjeilo’s favorite track, and was completely improvised. Very calm and introspective, it has an honest and intimate simplicity that speaks volumes. I absolutely love “January,” a bittersweet piece with an incredible flowing quality that just takes me away. “Madison” is a delicate duet for cello and piano that has a gentle swirling motion. “Sienna” is another favorite - this time a heartfelt trio for piano, violin, and cello that is almost fragile in its delicacy. “North Country II” is a reprise of the earlier track that has been expanded to a trio for piano, cello, and horn - incredible! As its title suggests,“Serenity” closes the set with a peaceful sigh. This piece is a duet for piano and horn that floats along on a quiet stream, completely at ease.

If you don’t mind my saying it again, this is one incredible album and I give it my highest recommendation. “Stone Rose” is available from www.olagjeilo.com, amazon.com, and iTunes. Check it out!!!

Kathy Parsons
9/25/08 - Kathy Parsons, MainlyPiano.com


Stone Rose (2L Records, 2008)

Available worldwide on amazon, iTunes + other online stores, and at local record stores.



Intuiting his love of nature, people and places into musical gifts, Ola Gjeilo recently recorded and released his new age piano music debut album, Stone Rose, with Norwegian record label 2L.

The music of New York City-based composer and pianist Ola Gjeilo has been performed and recorded in more than 20 countries worldwide, in venues such as New York’s Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall, Miami’s Knight Concert Hall and Jackie Gleason Theatre, the Copenhagen Opera House, and the National Galleries in London and Washington D.C.

Born in Oslo, Norway in 1978, Gjeilo now calls Manhattan his home. Having left Norway to study in London and the U.S., his homeland is never far from mind, especially as the young composer’s last name (pronounced Yay-lo) is a slight variation on Geilo, a famous Norwegian mountain resort town named after his great-grandfather.

Gjeilo grew up with music, improvising it before reading it, which encouraged him to develop his unique musical voice at an early age. He began formally studying jazz, classical piano and composition at the age of seven. After attending the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and earning a degree in composition from the Royal College of Music in London, he headed to the United States, where he completed his Master’s Degree in composition at The Juilliard School of Music in 2006.

Gjeilo, an admitted film buff, moved to Los Angeles to supplement his skills with a course in film scoring at USC in 2006 and 2007. While immersed in film composition, he solidified four film composers as his favorites: Thomas Newman, Dario Marianelli, Alexandre Desplat and, of course, John Williams. During that time, Gjeilo also launched a film music company called Nordic Screen Music, with composer Asmund Skuterud, based in Oslo and New York.

As a performer, Gjeilo has played piano all over the world, and most recently at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Mansion New York and Le Poisson Rouge in Manhattan; he is planning a number of intimate performances in support of Stone Rose.

Composing, recording and releasing the new age album Stone Rose opened an exciting new stage in Gjeilo’s life. Moved to share a more personal side of himself through his music, 2L supported his ambitions with a rewarding recording experience resulting in the stunning quality of the Hybrid Super Audio CD in Stereo and 5.1 Surround Sound.

Ola acknowledges nature, people and cities as his primary inspirations, saying, “My favorite photographer, Jake Rajs, has a book called These United States, with beautiful images of American scenery. Many of the songs on Stone Rose are expressions of my love for America, or the people I care about and the cities I’ve experienced. It’s a very personal and reflective album, with an improvised feel.”

Gjeilo’s classical, jazz and choral music has already enjoyed wide audience, having been featured on PBS in the United States, on the Swedish and Danish Broadcast Corporations, and on all the major Norwegian TV channels as well as several radio stations. He has been commissioned by various ensembles, musicians and others worldwide, including American star soprano Barbara Bonney (New England Songs, 2005), Solveig Kringelborn, Phoenix Chorale, Philip Brunelle, the Edvard Grieg Society, St. Olaf College, Ensemble Mendelssohn, and Voces Nordicae. Gjeilo’s choral music has also been performed by elite choirs such as Kansas City Chorale, World Youth Choir, VocalEssence, Norwegian Soloists’ Choir, and the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation’s Radiokören. November 2008 will mark the Disney Hall performance of his organ piece “Sinfonietta” at a solo recital by the wonderful young organist Chelsea Chen.

Gjeilo’s music publishers include Musikk-Huset and Walton Music, which became the exclusive publisher of Ola Gjeilo's choral music in 2007. 2L Electronic Scores has published some of the pieces from Stone Rose, available at their website, www.2L.musiconline.no.