Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity - To Whom Who Buys A Record (Odin, 2019)

Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity is an excellent progressive jazz trio featuring the leader on drums and percussion, André Roligheten on saxophones and bass clarinet and Petter Eldh on bass. For this album, the group focused on dynamics, recording in one room without amplification, getting up close and personal. This allowed them to use a wide range of instrumental sounds and textures, exploring more a nuanced ways ways to play their instruments and improvise.

“Cherry Man” opens the album with fast and bouncy drums and saxophone, with fluid and viscous bass binding everyone to a swinging freebop groove. Roligheten's saxophone achieves a wide range of sounds and tones that make a vivid statement as the drums grow more aggressive. He digs in for a deeper, more feral tone as the drums push harder and the bass pulsates, resulting in trio improvising that is first rate, as rolling drums and strutting saxophone sprint to the finish. Wild and funky percussion opens “Masakrake” with short bursts of saxophone and bass joining in, creating an alluring groove. The very tight and exciting rhythmic playing from all three instruments is key to this track's success, followed by a break for hoarse toned saxophone urged on by insistent and unflagging bass and drum support. Nilssen's drumming takes this track to another level pushing the tempo even faster to a caustic conclusion.

“Omkalfatring” is taken at a medium up tempo, sounding urgent yet with a muted edge. The three musicians take this repetitive figure and push it to the breaking point. Turning it over, looking at it this way and that, but never altering it in any discernible way. The anticipation and tension waiting for the release gets overwhelming, but the group never lets go and rides that groove off into sunset. Fast elastic bass and drums form a tight pocket for “Rat on a Skateboard” setting a fine foundation for some flashy saxophone playing very fast and true, and the group deploys a collective improvisation at a very high level. Thick steady bass anchors the group while the drums and saxophone are just steaming, yet still in complete control of their faculties.

“Less Dense” takes things in a different direction, with patient and fluid sounding bass setting the mood, soon joined by emotional and wrenched sounding saxophone framed by spare cymbal percussion. As opposed to much of the other music on this album, there is a palpable sense of loneliness to this performance, as the instruments are in orbit around or in engagement with one another. Fast and nimble percussion and saxophone burst out on “Botteknott,” with Nilssen developing some particularly cool rhythms anchored by Eldh's excellent bass playing. The band is tight and continuously pushing forward led by the percussion which has the cymbals and the drums intertwined together like a finely woven cloth.  Roligheten seems to blend both of his horns toward the end adding further color to the band's performance as the gleefully bulldoze anything in their path. The music on this album was fresh and exciting, with a powerhouse rhythm section and an excellent reed player making for the perfect combination which led to excellent music, whether playing solos or ensemble sections. To Whom Who Buys A Record -

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