j e f f  e l s t a d


Review by Kevin O'Connor, Music Director KBEM-FM Jazz 88FM
"Before a recent Cookin' at the Dakota performance, I was woefully unaware of Jeff Elstad, which is inexcusable for a self-proclaimed guitar freak, (especially finger-style). Mr. Elstad quickly rectified this oversight, however, with a fine performance of highly original guitar compositions which sent me reeling quickly toward the jazz88 music library to audition his new cd: "Cedar Moon."  It's safe to say I was pleased.  It must be rough for a fingerstyle guitarist in a Kottke/Lang/Reed/Donohue kind of burg. Whether intentional or not, Elstad wisely avoids comparisons to those lions by crafting beautiful melodies and playing them in an intimate studio setting with recording and bass assistance from Dean Christensen. Other guests include Doug Kuehn and Gary Petersen, and, always a noteworthy bonus: all compositions are original. Judging from the ecstatic reactions from Jazz88 listeners, Jeff should have success with this one."


Review by Benard Richter:
Jeff Elstad "Cedar Moon", Wildwood Music 2002 Cedar Mood Jeff Elstad's first release to date, contains an impressive display of the artist's own compositions, whose style borrows from a wealth of different folk and jazz traditions. Governed by Elstad's solo acoustic guitar playing, many of the selections revolve around a very soft aesthetic, due in part to the slow tempos that most of Elstad's compositions employ. The high quality of sound fidelity mixed with the more lively tunes, such as "going out", which features Doug Kuehn on Soprano Sax and Gary Petersen on Congas, helps in making the overall work smooth and well-balanced. Most fascinating for me was the way in which many of the tunes begin with a light, open sound but then subtly transform into something a bit darker, allowing a more complicated feel to emerge. Elstad's performance on a 1996 Larrivee is very precise, he takes great pains to articulate every nuance; thus an important aspect of Cedar Moon is getting lost in the playing itself, letting the rhythms, the purity of the guitar, and Elstad's crisp playing overtake the listener. ©Bernard Richter

Review by Bill Binkelman

JEFF ELSTAD Cedar Moon Wildwood Music Group (2002) Hailing from my home town of Minneapolis, Jeff Elstad is one helluva acoustic (finger-style) guitarist. His debut CD, Cedar Moon, is a gentle-on-the-ears trip into various acoustic contemporary instrumental moods and tones, and all of the songs are performed with dexterity and warmth, even when the tunes are uptempo (such as the sprightly opener, "after the rain"). Coming from the city that spawned Leo Kottke, Jeff does not try to imitate Kottke, although his fretwork is a delight to hear just the same. Instead, his compositional style is closer in spirit to other acoustic guitarists like Ken Bonfield, Will Brady, and Rick Alexander. This is not the more somber and evocative tone poems of, say, a Peter Janson; although Jeff does quiet things down on songs like the title track, which has a soothing yet haunting feel to it. While the album is mostly just Elstad and his acoustic guitar, he is sometimes joined (on at least one track) by accompanists (Dean Christensen on electric bass, Doug Kuehn on soprano sax and Gary Petersen on congas). But don't be mistaken, this is not Jamie Bonk or Dallas Gordon either. Solo guitar playing is at the heart and soul of this recording and Jeff is more than up to the task. Listen to the fluid circling refrain of "waterfalls" and how it seems to dance in the air with just enough energy without succumbing to being sing-songy or repetitive. "going out" is the track that features the conga and soprano sax and the swaying semi-jazzy sound to the sax and conga offer a nice change-of-pace from what has come before, yet the jazz elements never drag the song into "smooth" territory, since Elstad maintains his breezy friendly "modus operandi" throughout. There is no fake-urban sensibility here, thank goodness. The majority of the cuts on Cedar Moon are ideal for morning or afternoon listening. I'm playing it right now after breakfast - Onyx (our lab/rott mix) is outside basking in the spring sun and Kathryn is reading in the living room. By mentioning all this, I'm trying to indicate how comfortable this album is - Jeff never plays in a showy or pretentious style, yet this CD is also not overly commercial or "pop" music-like. "sidewalk cafe" and "long beach" offer adventurous rhythms and unusual musical shifts (not at all typical of tracks with titles that might suggest a more "pedestrian" approach to the music). "long beach," in particular, has a sense of urgency to it - almost as if the track were meant to convey a sense of fleeing. While the album has ten tracks on it, the total time is under forty minutes long (approximately 36 minutes). Personally, I've always been a advocate of quality over quantity and I could care less if a CD is packed to its seams with content. The songs on Cedar Moon offer up more than enough great music for my money. The idiosyncratically-titled "rain 229" is plaintive without being manipulatively sentimental. "cerulean sky" offers up a relaxed yet cheery tune, conjuring up an image of driving down a country highway watching distant clouds brush against the blue backdrop. Concluding with "34th avenue" (which is near where I live), an uptempo lively showcase for Jeff's nimble fingers, Cedar Moon's allure is that of unadorned, yet not overtly "simple" (read: ordinary) or pointlessly pyrotechnical, music. It's attraction will be difficult to resist if you're a fan of acoustic guitar. Add the name of Jeff Elstad to your list of guitarists to keep an eye on. He offers a distinctly unique "voice" amid the crowd and I couldn't get enough of his debut recording.

Review by Bill Binkelman

"Eventide," 2011

Oh that each of our days could lead to so satisfying an eventide; this musical melding of the last bubbling energy of today’s activity with moments so clear and calm, so conducive to contemplation of tomorrow.

Harold Onstad

Jeff Elstad is a little-known but extremely talented guitarist hailing from my hometown of Minneapolis. If you have customers who appreciate superb finger-style acoustic guitar, you ought to introduce them to this “hidden gem” of an artist. Eventide is his second album, and it aptly showcases Elstad’s astute command of both technique and artistry as he traverses a wide expanse of styles and moods. From the opening reflective “Night Kite,” to the driving intensity of “Nickel,” to the subtle jazziness of “NYC” (featuring saxophonist Doug Kuehn), Elstad guides the listener on a most pleasurable musical excursion.

Bill Binkelman

New Age Retailer

"Eventide," 2011

Clear and crisp original guitar instrumentals. That’s what you find on Jeff Elstad’s second release "Eventide." The 11 tracks present a relaxed palette of steel string guitar. There is no hurry or flash in Elstad’s playing, just melodies that ring and linger for a second and third taste. "kindle" gets a little sassy, but doesn’t leave the gentle aesthetic influencing the entire CD. "50 East" is one of the most beautiful melodies on the album; it’s the kind of tune you want to listen to again and again, and if you’re a guitarist, you’ll find yourself picking up your own guitar to figure out the simple melody. "nickel" picks up the tempo and passion a bit, slapping you out of the happy doldrums you encountered with the earlier material. Saxophonist Doug Kuehn joins in on "nyc," a moody missive with Elstad flatpicking throughout. "skein" cuts a nice groove. The title cut "eventide" is an aural soak on the shore of the bay as the sky reflects dusky light. Honestly, there is nothing terribly complicated or rare about these tunes -- there are hundreds of guitarists out there who can play this material. I’m just glad Jeff Elstad wrote and played them for us to hear. © Kirk Albrecht
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