Eyolf Dale: Connecting To the Life One Lives
by Susan FrancisNoted for his lyrical introspection and admired for his exploration of improvisational patterns and harmonic combinations, Oslo-based pianist and composer Eyolf Dale avails himself of all the experiences life offers. Dale is fully aware of every moment around him, engaging in its highs and lows, absorbing incremental changes that come with living, and imbibing on the everyday facets that affect choices. Then, he channels those experiences into his compositions and statements when working in collaborative settings.
He describes, “Being a musical collaborator and artist is strongly connected to the life you live. Getting older, being a father and a husband, growing from youth to adulthood.”
Mulling over the matter further, he imparts, “The philosophy you build your life around, the things you find important, affects the way you create your art.”
“For me,” he assesses, “finding the balance between being humble and being clear in your goals is the essence.”
“Hopefully,” he beholds, “I’m more open to where the music leads me than being focused on leading the music in a certain direction.”
A fundamental concept when improvising music, Dale oscillates between leading the melodic progressions and enhancing other musicians’ input. The decision is based on how the music affects him. In practice, the music sounds magical. From empty space emerges dynamic patterns, conversing and stimulating new routes, expanding the discussion in a spontaneous and rhapsodic manner.
“Musical ideas seem to have a will of its own,” he hypothesizes, “and I really search for that will – and to follow it accordingly. That’s a bold goal, perhaps, but it most certainly keeps me busy and motivated!”
Eyolf Dale has been busy performing and recording as a solo artist, in duets, trios, and orchestras. One of his first original compositions and solo effort, “Prolleprepp,” puts into physical form the magic he creates through improvised music.
He recounts, “In 2011, I started to record my first solo album and experimented a lot with prepared piano grooves combining it with ‘regular’ piano. That specific take [of “Prolleprepp”] on the Hotel Interludes album is actually from a concert at the Norwegian Academy of Music, where I was a student at that time. I practiced a lot those days, and I can still feel that joyful spirit when listening back to it. Glad that it’s out there!”
Departure, his sixth recording, paired him with saxophonist and clarinet player André Roligheten. He explains how he met Roligheten and chose to record with him, “We met at high school at the age of 16 and have been best friends ever since. We started to play together around that time, and boy has it been an adventure!”
“We’ve traveled the world,” he proclaims, “played hundreds of concerts and recorded 6 albums together. Departure is the last so far, but I hope to pick up the collaboration at a later stage.”
“The Departure album comes from hundreds of concerts,” he asserts, “and is actually our 6th album with and without collaborators. When planning this album, we recorded every concert on a tour in Russia, aiming for it to be a live album. Just for fun, we played through the material at home just after the tour, and it just felt better and more focused. Very proud of this music and this duo.”
He reflects, “There’s a unique musical chemistry present in the duo coming from all those hours practicing and experimenting together. André is probably the musician I’ve learned the most from, a terrific guy and a unique musician.”
The making of the track “Moon Jogger” from Departure was its own unique experience for Dale, as he recollects, “It came together improvising at my piano at home, as most of my music does. Together with André, we developed it into what it became. It’s just a loop of arpeggios with André being free on top. I mean, he has this special energy coming from all those hours working with free jazz and improvised music. Really inspiring!”
Being the follow-up to Departure, sees Dale joined by Per Zanussi on bass and Audun Kleive on drums. He recalls how he met Zanussi and Kleive, “I’ve always admired them, and I grew up listening to their albums. Both as sidemen and soloists. When we play together, the music is breathing, and we equally challenge each other on different levels. That’s what both I and the music needs. Always!”
He regards, “The motivation behind Being was Per Zanussi sending me a message with a link to a YouTube video with a great piano trio and the text ‘What about playing piano trio one day?’ This initiative was crucial and just the push I needed to start this adventure together with Per and drummer Audun Kleive.”
“The recording process was very different from Departure,” he purports, “as the Being was recorded after just a few concerts testing out the new material. The studio was a big hall and very professional. Departure was done by two old friends at home on my own piano. Two mics on the piano, and one mic on the sax.”
Dale remembers a track from Being that took a long time to pin down, “The tune ‘Behind 315’ was originally an idea that came to me back in 2006, and it needed all those years to find its form. In 2006, it was strongly connected to the piano teacher I had at the time, and on his office door, there was a sign, ‘315.’ His comments and words needed processing, and in this case, it needed those years!”
Working with Per Zanussi and Audun Kleive again on the trio’s forthcoming album The Wayfarers, due to be released in 2023, Dale perceives, “The driving force was to make an album that shows the effect of the concerts we had played after the Being album. We wanted to solve the arrangements in a freer way yet keeping the strong relationship to the composed material.”
He illustrates, “Most of the compositions came to life while walking in Oslo and in the woods nearby, and I feel that some of the tunes reflect that. The feeling of different tempos was apparent, you know, the feeling of time slowing down when life is buzzing around you. Then you see things differently; a tree suddenly becomes beautiful, a buzzing crossing on the highway seems calm.”
The Wayfarers is characterized on Dale’s bandcamp site as “a journey. From the warm optimism of the opening track through to melancholy and deep yearning and nostalgia, which can be found in ‘After the Party’ and ‘Fields of Kyiv,’ the album truly captures the highs and lows, the twists and turns of life on the road.”
Being on the road while touring and performing live is a significant stimulant for Dale, as he determines, “Playing live is my gasoline. Spending time on the bandstand is the main source of development. After a tour or a concert, I’m filled with ideas on where to go next and ideas on what I should improve in my playing and writing.”
He considers, “Both in the studio and on stage, the vision behind the compositions is crucial, and in both cases, I find great pleasure in making that vision into sound.”
“Obviously,” he ascertains, “composing for the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra and the trio is two very different things. But, as an arranger for large ensembles, one must ‘hear’ the whole image and focus a lot more on the drama and the overall story. What’s the dynamic curve? Where’s the peaks? Which part feels important to highlight? Or more critical questions like: is this too one-dimensional? Do we need a contrast?”
“In the trio,” he surmises, “we do those things without words on the spot; as an arranger, you must do that in advance. I find both approaches interesting and fulfilling!”
Dale realized his heart’s desire to perform improvised music early in life, as he declares, “It was never a choice, really. Improvising and composing is a necessity for being functional for me. Of course, turning this driving force into a profession is another thing, and it comes gradually, I guess.”
“Studying music at the Academy in Oslo was very formative,” he maintains, “we spent hours and hours rehearsing and jamming together, and I met a lot of inspiring people both in the faculty and among the students. I learned things I still have to figure out. Earlier on, I started to get gigs in weddings, funerals, and in theaters around the age of 15-16, so I guess I’ve been a working musician since then.”
The seeds to play piano professionally were planted in Dale’s mind as far back as his youth, as he chronicles, “We had a grand piano at home when I grew up, my father worked as a pianist and arranger, and the home was usually filled with music! This was obviously an inspiring environment for a creative and musical kid.”
“I don’t remember not being able to play the piano,” he addresses, “it came very natural from the age of 6. I just improvised and made my own things from the beginning, never classical, and I couldn’t read music properly until I was quite old.”
His passion for creating music is a significant part of his life. But then again, he admits, “I’m passionate about making food! Apart from that, I must admit that there’s not that much time for hobbies.”
Finding the impetus to make music by connecting to the experiences he encounters through life and being fully aware of every moment around him, Eyolf Dale makes magic. From nothing emerges sonic spectaculars. All he has to do is channel his thoughts and choices into his compositions and collaborations. He makes magic seem so effortless.
As Buschmeyer postulated, “Enjoy the ride; you may be here for a while.”
About Susan Frances:Born in Brooklyn, New York and raised in eastern Long Island, I always enjoyed writing and made several contributions to my high school literary magazine, The Lion’s Pen. Influenced by writers of epic novels including Colleen McCullough and James Clavell, I gravitated to creative writing. After graduating from New York University with a BA in Liberal Arts, I tried my hand at conventional jobs but always returned to creative writing. Since 1998, I have been a freelance writer and have over three thousand articles to various e-zines including: Jazz Times, Blogcritics, Yahoo Voices, Goodreads.com, Authors and Books (books.wiseto.com), TheReadingRoom.com, Amazon.com, Epinions.com, Fictiondb.com, LibraryThing.com, BTS emag, BarnesandNoble.com, RomanticHistoricalReviews.com, AReCafe.com, Hybrid Magazine, and BookDepository.com. In 2013 and 2014, I was a judge in the Orange Rose Writing Competition sponsored by the Orange County chapter of the Romance Writers of America located in Brea, California.