Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Frode Gjerstad and Paal Nilssen-Love - Side By Side (CIMP, 2012)

This is a special meeting of prominent Norwegian jazz musicians Frode Gjerstad on alto saxophone, clarinet and bass clarinet and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. The duo format really seems to suit them well, as they lock into each others wavelength immediately and keep the energy high for the remainder of the session. “Downtown” opens the album beginning with some spacious saxophone playing, probing the silence. Nilssen-Love enters and the music picks up to a frenetic pace with growling and shrieking saxophone over rolling drums. There is a dynamic presence to the music which shifts between loud and soft sections. Strong drums and saxophone usher in “Metropolis” which soon becomes a full bore collective improvisation and the playing is very fast and potent. They throttle back to a softer drum pattern with swirling saxophone but remain in constant exciting dialogue. The intensity of the duo is reminiscent of the great John Coltrane - Rashied Ali duo album Interstellar Space on “Redwood,” with squeaks and squeals communicating over rapid drumming. The musicians enter a more abstract vein on “Casa” featuring high pitched saxophone or clarinet playing off against rattling percussion, making for a skittering chase like scene of high performance energy. Nilssen-Love’s drums open up about two-thirds of the way through the performance, playing his way through a near backbeat for the benefit of Gjerstad’s sputtering reeds. “Rough Idea” is an improvised sketch with a drum solo and swaying clarinet. There’s a quiet section too, where the group shifts the tempo to high pitched squalls over nervous drums. Rapping the album up is another highlight (and a great way to end the album) “Beachland,” which is fourteen minutes of go for broke duet improvisation of barreling hell for leather drums and lightning saxophone. This is an excellent sequel to the musicians 2010 album, Gromka. Fans of the European free-improv scene will really like this album, as it was a very exciting meeting of two of the leading lights of the European free jazz scene. Nilssen-Love's drumming is hypnotically beautiful throughout, and Gjerstad has a conception of structure and freedom that makes for a continually interesting album. Side by Side - iTunes

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