he was ten, Knut Reiersrud recorded Miles Davis and Mikael Urbaniak
from the radio on his sister's cassette player. Two years later,
he and his brother bought themselves guitars after seeing Buddy
Guy and Muddy Waters on TV. At eighteen, Knut became an overnight
sensation when the same Buddy Guy and Otis Rush, having heard him
for the first time, embraced him and immediately invited him home
Knut Reiersrud (1961) is known to most people as
a guitarist. It's now thirty years since he had the honour of playing
with his legendary heroes. Since then he has played at 6,000 concerts,
made more than 300 records, and 10 under his own name, and in between
times learned to master ten different string instruments. The problems
arise when you try to explain what kind of guitarist he is. A man
who always travels around with eight guitars because they have been
tuned differently according to where the music comes from is versatility
Reiersrud's unique talent shines
out through allthis versatility. In some inexplicable way, he creates
an aura around the notes that is pure Reiersrud, whether he is playing
African, Indian, Norwegian or American folk music, whether he dwells
sobbingly, dances with cat's paw virtuosity over the strings or
is downright noisy. It sometimes sounds as though he is giving birth
to the notes right there and then, possibly as a result of his never
using a plectrum because he wants to be close to the strings. His
playing seems to find the essence; it evidences fundamentality,
understanding and a sense of origin. All this is due to his insatiable
curiosity and enviable openness. On the other hand, he can also
be surprisingly conventional, as when he maintains that modern blues
consists of good and less good copies of the great masters.
The blues were his entrée to an
unusually varied career, difficult to define but undoubtedly that
of an innovative stylist. With the Four Roosters, he recorded Rooster
Blues in '82. The following year he jammed with several of his
idols in the immortal Chess Studios in Chicago. That was the beginning
of the Chicago Blues Meeting group, which released Snake in My
Bedroom in '88. During that period, Knut Reiersrud was a concert
attraction and a public favourite. In beret, check jacket and extra
long guitar wire, he spent much of his time at overheated concerts
dancing with the audience while impeccably performing solo after
solo on guitar or harmonica. In actual fact, he was a down-to-earth
student who financed his studies by playing the clubs. When he discovered
that he was a member of six different bands at the same time and
was due to take an exam in Kant's moral philosophy, he finally realized
that he was a musician.
The advantage and disadvantage of
being such a specialized musician in such a small
environment as Norway is that you have to go out and play to make
a living. Reiersrud became, and still is, a favourite studio musician
and has always spent a lot of time on the road. He believes he is
lucky to be able to play with so many good guitarists better than
himself and will never stop learning. He has worked with many different
stylists, such as Buddy Guy, Dr. John, Joe Cocker, Rick Danko, Sultan
Kahn, Stevie Ray Vaughn, David Lindley, the Five Blind Boys of Alabama
and El Subramanian. He has also delved into Norwegian folk music
in an unusual combination with Iver Kleive's church organ.
cooperation resulted in Blå
koral (Blue Chorale, '91) and Himmelskip (Heavenly Ship,
'92), both of them milestones and works of reference in terms of
genre, musical potential and recording technique. Blå koral contains
Norwegian folk music and hymns recorded directly on a master tape
in St. Knud's Cathedral in Odense, Denmark, at dead of night to
avoid background noise. They also had to stop playing before the
church bells rang every hour.
On the follow-up record in the same
place, also at night five years later, they further developed the
interface between European church music and folk music in cooperation
with Danish folk singer Povl Dissing. Neither Christians nor non-Christians
had ever heard hymns and folk songs performed like that before.
When the guitarist and organist toured the churches, they caused
mass migrations the like of which had only previously been seen
at Christmas and Easter. Music was suddenly back in its origins,
practical church music reinforcing a message and providing solace
and strength for the congregation.
Reiersrud's spellbinding charm has in no way diminished
over the years. His body language and mimicry are still extraordinarily
expressive as he communicates and dedicates himself to something
even greater and more powerful than the music itself.
The paths Reiersrud chooses to take
can hardly be called changes but rather extensions
of style. From the sounds and intellectualism of the churches, it
seems only natural for him to begin investigating the instinctive
aspect of rhythm. On Tramp
('93, released in the US the following year under the title Footwork),
he wanted to honour the most common musical instrument in the world,
the foot. The music was largely newly composed, but based on traditional
music from Norway, West Africa and America.
The idea for Klapp
('95) came after the the Voss Jazz Festival in '94, when the applauding
audience clapped in time to twelve singers and musicians from three
continents. It plays around with all the forms of expression that
can be created by the hands, continuing where Tramp left off with
newly composed music and arranged traditional music from all over
the world. The ultimate leap without a safety net came in the form
of Soul of a Man
in '98. Here he has both rhythm and blues on a complete R & B album
that was never fashionably hatched out at a recording company office
but re-experienced from stages, dressing rooms, waiting rooms and
endless nighttime journeys.
daringly mixes his own melodies and Jeff Wasserman's lyrics with
six songs by Dr. John/Doc Pomus, Curtis Mayfield's "I Can't
Stop" and Cole Porter's "(Let's Do It) Let's Fall In Love".
The smile and the sorrow go hand in hand and it is quite obvious
that blond-haired Knut was really born in Louisiana.
As a studio musician, he is not
merely a guitarist on an hourly rate producing sounds to order.
Many assignments develop so much that he might just as well have
been included on the cover as co-composer, co-producer or co-artist.
He has also composed the music for four Norwegian movies and, with
Iver Kleive, took part in the opening
ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games in '94. They did the quiet
Much of Reiersrud's strength lies
in his comprehensive knowledge, thanks not only to his years of
experience but also to his interest in music theory. He
is so incredibly curious! He has systematized his knowledge to such
an extent that he is today an authority on older traditional music,
not least in the radio program Blå minutter(Blue Minutes) with Harald
Are Lund, Norway's John Peel. He defines himself objectively as
follows: The expression is blues, the packaging is typically West
European Beatles tradition and the sound is oriental, Indian and
African folk music mixed with the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle!
He is as flexible and accessible as his guitar. Music consists
of three variable elements; the rhythmic, which is the pulse, the
melody, which is the heart, and the harmony, which is the head.
Time and time again he stresses that his base is intuition and emotion
and therefore stands for the heart. No-one out here in the darkness
of the concert hall has ever been in any doubt about that.
- Jostein Pedersen
Since the time of the writing of the above piece
on Knut much has happened. He now is co-host for a weekly radio
program on the Norwegian Broadcasting Corp. called "BluesAsylet"
(The Blues Asylum). The show presents an extremely wide spectrum
of Blues, Jazz, World & traditional folk musics in old and new
Album releases include SUB
(1999) - an ensemble of songs and compositions from the last near
In early 2000, continuing Reiersrud and Iver Kleive's collaboration
and adding Danish vocalist and national treasure Povl Dissing; the
album "Den sigende dag"
(The Blessed Day) was released. All of the song texts were written
by Danish poet, N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783-1872). An author of over
1,000 songs, his poetry and political beliefs impacted both Danish
and Norwegian culture. 2000 also saw the release of "4G"
, a project that put together four of Norway's best guitarists.
2001, the release of yet another Knut Reiersrud solo album, Sweet
Showers of Rain. This album following in the Reiersrud tradition
of musical Blues evolution.
During a tour in India and Nepal with The
Funky Homosapiens Knut was reunited with Vajra,
a band working to keep the folk music of Nepal alive. After three
concerts at the jazz festival in Kathmandu, poetically called “Jazzmandu”,
they walked over to Studio 2000, sat in a circle, took one microphone
each, and let loose. Nepalese music possesses a beauty and depth
that are difficult to describe with words. It is reminiscent of
the sounds of the more prominent Indian and Pakistani cultures farther
to the south, but its form is more “folky” and is based
more on short, catchy melodic phrases. For many years, the area
where this little country surrounded by huge mountains is found
has been associated with Shangri-La. This name has become the symbol
of paradise on earth since James Hilton wrote the book Lost Horizon
in 1933, about a mysterious, legendary land hidden in a valley deep
within the Himalaya Mountains. The people who lived in this land
enjoyed exceptionally long lives in perfect harmony, peace and happiness.
The music of Nepal runs like a murmuring brook through this landscape
of goodness. The CD, Himalaya
Blues, was released in January 2004.
In 2004 Knut also recorded his Norwegian Grammy Award winner Pretty
Ugly CD. Still with the highly acclaimed indie
KKV label - he went back to church with pipe- organist Iver Kleive
and recorded their third album, Nåde
Over Nåde, in 06 - which received a Danish Grammy
Knut traveled to Teheran, Iran - arranged music for The Vahdat Sisters
and actually recorded a live CD, Songs
Fom A Persian Garden, which made quite a splash in
World music circles - as public singing is forbidden for women in
Iran. Knut also wrote and produced an album of love duets between
Mahsa Vahdat and legendary soul/blues singer Mighty
Sam McClain - SCENT OF REUNION. This album was released
Europe on kkk.no records and Valley
Entertainment in the states.
VOODOO WITHOUT KILLING
CHICKEN - Knuts 7th solo album - was released in 2008.
The band from this session (an all star lineup of young players
from well known bands such, as Jaga Jazzist and Big Bang) was to
become Knuts touring band.
The year after Norwegian Jazz entrepreneur and pianist par excellence
Bugge Wesseltoft produced a true minimalist instrumental album focusing
on Knuts acoustic playing. The project was very well received and
resulted in Reiersrud's eighth Norwegian Grammy nomination.
In 2011 Knut and Mighty Sam McClain went back into studio - to
record an "old school" soul album. The album is out on
(kkv.no) in Europe and on Valley
Entertainment in the US. "One
Drop Is Plenty" - as it is called - received overwhelming
Once again breaking new ground, in 2012 Reiersrud recorded an exceptional and innovative “blues meets 19th century classical music” album with his band and the famed Trondheim Soloists. This critically acclaimed album was entitled “Infinite Gratitude” and stunned audiences with their live performances.
In the summer of 2013 Knut desided it was time to go back to the source of his musical cosmos. Recording a 100% solo album, AftonBluescontain the 12 first blues and rags he learned in his early teens. Several of these songs arealso available on YouTube.