Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Ken Vandermark and Paal Nilssen-Love - Screen Off (PNL Records, 2019)

Multi-reedist Ken Vandermark and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love have been playing together for many years in a score of bands and are especially potently as a duet, having completed many tours and albums including a multi-disc boxed set together. So instead of releasing another duo concert album, this one comes with a fascinating twist: the musicians teamed up with producer Lasse Marhaug who trolled through hours of recordings that fans have uploaded to YouTube, raw audience recordings, compressed and occasionally distorted by the web site's format. The took their ideas from experimental film directors to make a audio collage, using only about a two minutes from each source, stitching together a forty-two minute album filled with jarring jump cuts and witty handoffs. They use a musical version of a William Burroughs cut-up novel, by piecing the album together with the idea of creating a musical narrative at the forefront, so there my be snippets from different concerts even from different years sewn together, creating a cohesive flow for the music to follow. It works very well, one section tumbles into the next with gleeful abandon, twenty-one in all, demonstrating that the two musicians have a uniquely compatible relationship playing together, understanding their relationship in speed, tone, complexity and use of space and time. That fact is demonstrated throughout this project, as Nilssen-Love remains an ever-potent force on drums and percussion, while Vandermark deploys his saxophones with great facility. The entire album comes through like an imaginary concert of the mind, where powerhouse squeaks and crashes demonstrate the potency of the duo, making way for high pitched reeds and rolling drums, clearing the path for spacier sections which themselves only to take flight again, soaring high into the next gear shift. This album is highly recommended, but very difficult to explain, it really must be experienced to be fully understood. It is an interesting way to move forward for the music, using avant-garde techniques from other artistic disciplines and folding them into progressive jazz in a very thoughtful manner. Also, it is a collaboration with the fans, giving a nod to the audience who love the music and go to the concerts, recording them for posterity sharing their music with other fans who don't have the opportunity to see these great musicians in action. Screen Off - amazon.com

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