Saturday, February 20, 2016

Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit - Erta Ale (PNL Records, 2014)

Located in Ethiopia, Erta Ale is one of the most continuously active volcanoes on Earth. And is a fine name for this opening album by a new band of one of the most respected drummers in jazz, Paal Nilssen-Love.  He was a mainstay of the famous Peter Brotzmann Tentent, and when that group was retired, he took up the mantle of very carefully putting a large band together with some of the finest Scandinavian musicians. Developed over the last 12 months the band began to mature, and the fruits of their labor are this is a three-disc set where two of the discs are studio/live mixes and one was performed live at Moers. All compositions are by Nilssen-Love, but the musicians are given great freedom to contribute their own flavors to the music. The music is a commanding powerhouse when being played as a full unit, but they are completely capable of breaking out into smaller units or solo spots within the band as a whole. There is a trust and a democratic nature that allows it to live and breathe a way that many other bands are not able to do. That democratic nature allow the music to ebb and flow, use dynamics and seemingly at times thermodynamics especially in the live settings, where their relation to energy and work is astounding and heat and temperature developed by the band particularly by the pushing and pulling by Nilssen-Love who is so supremely confident and completely in control of the music is very impressive. To begin the recorded history of a band with a three disc boxed set is an audacious move, but it pays off quite well. This is a very exciting band who makes excellent music, reveling in the moment where the energy and pressure created by the music can create something unexpected, the sound of surprise, and that great freedom to contribute their own ideas to the leader’s own drives the success of this recording and leaves the listener wanting more and wondering what more could they possibly do for an encore? Nilssen-Love was in charge of the music from pillar to post choosing the musicians, the material, producing the album and releasing at in his own label in a heavy box, colorful sleeves, a booklet of liner notes and a booklet of photography. It was a Herculean task and a classy set through and through. PNL - Erta Ale - Squidco 

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