Frode Barth (b. 20th of August 1968) is a Norwegian guitarist and composer, well known for his contributions to jazz, contemporary music and popular music. Barth began playing guitar under the tutorship of Erik Wesseltoft at the ripe age of 9 years (from 1977 to 1984) and he would soon progress to lead his own bands; among the most prominent being Bad Image which was bestowed with a 1983 victory of major Norwegian daily Aftenposten’s talent competition. He was also involved in the St. Laurentius Choir (1977-1983) where he appeared as a soloist on a number of occasions. By the time he reached 15 he filled in for Wesseltoft in the nationally renowned Kjell Karlsen Orchestra and honed his skills as soloist alongside lauded trumpeter Peter Katterås.
Barth has also studied with guitarists Bjorn Klakegg (1983-1989), Jørn Takla (1985-1986), Egil Haugland (1984-87), Knut Værnes during the Norwegian Jazz Federation Summer School (1987), Odd-Arne Jacobsen (1988-1989), Staffan William-Olsson (1988-1990), Stein-Erik Olsen (1989-1991) and Geir-Otto Nilsson (1991-1992). In addition to the guitar studies, Barth also studied improvisation with jazz musicians Torgrim Sollid and Morten Lassem (1986-1988).
Barth is a graduate of the Music and Aesthetic course at Foss High School (1985-1988). He was active in the school’s vibrant jazz scene and played a vital role in the young and talented pool of musicians based around the Oslo Jazz House. He completed the instrumental-pedagogic course at the Barratt-Due Institute of Music’s Conservatory Department, (1988-1990). This was a classic course, but in parallel to this, Barth was also active in a wide range of rhythmic music styles. Especially valuable to him were the improvisation classes taught by jazz pianist Egil Kapstad. The piano master would also occasionally bring in well established players such as drummer Ole Jacob Hansen and bassist Terje Venaas, providing a highly inspiring learning environment. Barth also studied with the well respected guitarist Finn Westbye.
Barth pursued further studies in guitar, composition and kindergarten music teaching at the Barratt-Due Institute of Music (1990-91) and began graduate studies at the Institute for Music and Theatre at the University of Oslo (1992-94). Following this period, Barth focused on studying with influential players in his chosen genre including in-depth studies in London with guitarist/composer John W. Duarte (1996), lessons with guitarist/composer Leo Brouwer in Havana (1999) and sessions with bassist/composer Reggie Workman, New York (1994 and 1997).
Currently, Barth is active as a guitarist, composer, educator and producer. He is a versatile musician with experience in a wide range of music styles and genres and masters acoustic as well as electric guitars. Barth maintains a playful and strong form of expression whether he is working in minimalist settings or in large ensemble situations. Barth has worked and played with a wide range of musicians including Oscar Peterson, Reggie Workman, Arthur Maia, Robertinho Silva, Toninho Horta, Alex Deutch, Kjell Karlsen, Trygve Seim, Terje Venaas, Harald Johnsen, Paul Weeden, Celio de Carvalho, Alf Kjellman, Paul Thowsen, Arild Andersen, Jon Eberson, Per Oddvar Johansen, Steve Bloom, Jarle Vespestad, Andreas Bye, Tom Olstad and Ziga Golob. More than anything else, it is still his meeting with Chet Baker in 1988 and the ensuing poetic interplay that has left Barth with the most lasting impression – a musical memory that has served as artistic guidance for more than two decades.
Barth has contributed to and released a number of CD releases, visited festivals in Norway and abroad and participated in a number of TV and radio programmes. He is also an active composer with an output of approx. 400 works ranging from incidental music, contemporary classical, jazz, pop/rock and film music. Barth has also had solo assignments internationally and has received numerous commissions. His compositions are performed in Norway and abroad on a frequent basis. Barth is also a member of the NOPA (Association of Norwegian composers and lyricists since 1990). He received the National Scholarship as a musician in 1999 to work with composer Bjørn Fongaard’s microtonal quarter-tone music.
Especially important in Barth’s career is the Norwegian-Estonian trio collaboration Barth/Aaserud /Roll [BAR], which with the release “Going North” won the 2006 Grammy Awards in Estonia in the category of best jazz release. Another key project is also the long-standing collaboration with bassist Harald Johnsen – the two have performed together since 1984. 1988 saw the two winning the national finals of Norway’s youth culture event UKM as members of trio TAPE. The album “Blue Spheres” was released in 2007 and is the result of years of interaction, improvisation and compositional exchange between the two musicians. The album has subsequently received a long list of rave reviews. Barth has recently contributed to Julius Winger’s new CD “Kjærlighet og andre misforståelser”. Wingers band consists of a veritable elite of contemporary Norwegian jazz: Jan Erik Kongshaug, guitar, Frode Barth, guitars, Mathias Eick, trumpet, Trygve Seim, sax, Mats Eilertsen, bass, Andreas Utnem, piano, Halvor Lillesund, accordion and Per Oddvar Johansen drums.
Barth has worked with drum dancers in Greenland, performed ringside with musicians who play traditional music to the national sport of Muay Thai (Thai boxing) in Bangkok, in choir and drum groups in Cuba and has delved deep into the Rio de Janeiro favela in search of samba’s heart.