Gisle Johansen – tenor, soprano and alto saxophone
Håvard Wiik – piano
Ingebrigt Håker Flaten – bass
Paal Nilssen-Love – drums
Element was established by saxophonist and composer Gisle Johansen. While the majority of Norwegian jazz musicians in the early nineties seemed to sound alike – or were mostly inspired by the ”Scandinavian sound” being exemplified by the music coming out of the important label ECM- Gisle was heavily influenced by the music of John Coltrane. In fact, he set out to form a group that would embody his version of the John Coltrane Quartet. We rehearsed day and night at Gisle’s home in Eidsvold -endlessly trying to get it right. Because of the sense of community and focus that was created in trying to reproduce some very specific sounds, this collective was an immensely important experience for me . Element as the original quartet, recorded two albums and did a few Norwegian & European tours.
See Francois Couture review of “Shaman” from All Music Guide:
”Shamann” – This album from 1999 features the Norwegian quartet Element in top shape. All the music was written by saxophonist/flutist Gisle W. Johansen and shows strong influences from the post-bop of latter-day John Coltrane and Archie Shepp. It grooves raucously, thanks to the rhythm section of Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and Paal Nilssen-Love, a unit that kept on improving afterwards but already was a marvel to follow. The two of them lock together so tightly they can only drag along any musician in the vicinity for a locomotive race — the 17-minute “Shaman’s Dance” is all the proof you need. Pianist Håvard Wiik brings in a softer hue, McCoy Tyner style. Johansen’s tenor sax playing is quite respectable, but the real surprise comes when he grabs his flute for “Meditation” and “The Truth,” two slower numbers that go back to the still melodically sensitive Coltrane of A Love Supreme (or Roland Kirk’s tender side). The album also features guest appearances from reedmen Petter Wettre and Vidar Johansen, although their contributions are difficult to point out — except for their playful additions in the opener, “The Wish.” Shaman is jazz to smile to, but don’t take it too lightly. These musicians stay out of the mainstream, but they go their creative ways with such confidence, lack of pretension, and obvious respect for the jazz tradition that they make it easy to understand and enjoy them. Highly recommended, especially to those who want to hear what Norwegian jazz has to say outside ECM’s sphere of influence.