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Monday, July 4, 2016

And Nilssen-Love Connects All

Frode Gjerstad Trio - Steam in the Casa (PNL, 2016) ****

The trio of Norwegian free jazz and free improvisation pioneer, reeds player Frode Gjerstad, has been working steadily since 1999, touring annually and documenting its work mainly through live recordings from its many tours around the globe. Steam in the Casa is a live recording from the Casa Del Popolo club in Montreal, Canada, captured on November 2015. The trio features Nilssen-Love, a founding member of the trio, and double bass player Jon Rune Strøm, who joined the trio in 2011 and also plays in Nilssen-Love Large Unit.

Gjerstad explains that trio was indeed “pretty much steaming” in the night of the recording. Gjerstad was mad that Air Canada that almost wrecked his old Martin alto sax, making it so he could not get “a strong sound out” or play the three lowest notes. Nevertheless, Gjerstad decided to play this instrument. “That gave me an extra push, I guess: I really wanted to show to myself that the Martin is good even when it’s crippled! I love the sound in that horn!”

The trio sounds super hot and in top form despite the sax incident, exploding with irresistible energy and tight interplay where Nilssen-Love and Strøm keeps pushing Gjerstad with fast-shifting rhythmic dynamics. Gjerstad can take any rhythmic idea and expand it into a structured road map that will challenge the eager Nilssen-Love and Strøm to follow, always taking chances, spicing the dense and tight interplay with a clever sense of humor. Just listen to pieces as “Stranger in a Common Place”,  the longest “Dodging Borders” or the surprisingly quiet and peaceful “Wobbly Rails” and you will be convinced that this is one of the best working groups around, and no doubt, you will fall in love with the sound of that crippled Marin sax.

Thomas Johansson / Øyvind Storesund / Paal Nilssen-Love - Revolution Before Lunch (Tammtz Records, 2016) ****

This ad-hoc Norwegian trio was formed by trumpeter Thomas Johansson in 2015 as a part of his Master's Degree at The Norwegian Academy of Music. It features the original rhythm section of Gjerstad Trio, Nilssen-Love and double bass player Øyvind Storesund. Johansson plays in Nilssen-Love Large Unit and in other modern jazz outfits as Cortex, All Included, and Friends & Neighbors.

This trio was recorded at the Nasjonal Jazzscene Victoria club in Oslo on February 2015, and the recording is the debut one of Johansson newly-founded Tammtz label. Johansson is a charismatic musician with a strong sound of his own, assured, round and full, flowing with arresting ideas. The rhythm section of Nilssen-Love and Storesund keeps him on his toes, forcing him to adjust his ideas into the urgent, propulsive rhythm section that keeps shifting its rhythmic dynamics. Nilssen-Love and Storesund sound as a telepathic, inseparable unit, but wisely leaving enough space for Johanssen to deliver his commanding solos.

The first two pieces, the propulsive “Close As Hail” and the more moderate “Pouch Of Skin”, sound as an introduction to the 26-minutes tour-de-force of “Incomprehensible Beats”. After Johansson adapted himself to the immediate, shifting dynamics of Nilssen-Love and Storesund, these two experienced improvisers push Johansson even further, opening and varying the rhythmic envelope constantly, coloring his extended breathing techniques and some of his most lyrical playing with great imagination and detail. Johansson meets this challenge with remarkable success, claiming his status as a leader to reckon with in the rich legacy of fiery, free jazz meets free improvised trio format.