Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Ken Vandermark and Paal Nilssen-Love - AMR (Catalytic Sound, 2019)

Released just in time for their lengthy tour of Japan, this is another excellent duet album from Ken Vandermark on tenor saxophone and clarinet and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion. They have an empathetic connection that ensures creative and exploratory music that comes through in this album, which is divided into four alphabetical selections. "A" opens the album with crushing drums and tenor saxophone, playing in an exciting and immediate manner placing the music right in your face. Dark toned and knotty saxophone and drums played with great commitment and trust, levelling the music to a medium up tempo with rhythmic exchanges and light pops amid the space. Vandermark uses a lighter sound along with bare percussion, which builds the tension like great storytellers, with Nilssen-Love's drums bursting into action fast and loud, given room to shine brilliantly. The tenor saxophone re-enters and their interaction is full force improvisation at its finest, the musicians are locked in and playing with passion and fervor. Spare and quiet, "B" takes the music in another direction, with Vandermark moving to clarinet and probing areas of space with high pitched sounds. Tumbling percussion meets the reed playing with jabs and parries, waxing and waning in intensity and using long piercing tones of yearning sound. "C" has the drums building tension, gaining speed like a downhill skier, and leading to a sound of near ritualistic percussion and Vandermark's tenor saxophone, which calls out into the void as the two musicians come together in a massive edifice of sound, with dramatic crashing drums and stoic tenor saxophone. They develop a deep interconnected freebop improvisation at the end of this section which is expertly played and continuously inventive. Vandermark returns to clarinet for "D" and twirls loops of sound in open space as the drums rumble in, sounding unfettered and free making the clarient strain as the two instruments grow deeply integrated in a focused conversation of free jazz, and ending with a dramatic flourish. This album worked very well and it seems no matter how many times Ken Vandermark and Paal Nilssen-Love play together they are able to create music that is liberated from any cliche, as if they are released into the zone of creativity where they have the freedom to take risks and create fresh music with impunity. AMR - Bandcamp

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