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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Arashi - Trost Live Series 001 (Trost, 2017) ****½

By Eyal Hareuveni

Two years ago the prolific Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love began to sell at his gigs limited-edition discs of his performances. Peter Brötzmann, who played on these recordings, contributed the spartan, minimalist design. Only the name of the musicians and the performance place were mentioned - a trio with Brötzmann and South-African trumpeter Claude Deppa from Cafe OTO in London and a duo with Brötzmann from Levontin 7 club in Tel Aviv. Nothing else. No names of the performed pieces, not even a label name.

Nilssen-Love’s initiative was adopted in 2017 by the Austrian label Trost. The first release of this new series of live dates keeps Brötzmann minimalist design, and it features another group of Nilssen-Love, the trio Arashi, with legendary Japanese reeds plater Akira Sakata and Swedish double bass player Johan Berthling, who have collaborated before with Nilssen-Love in the trio of Swedish pianist Sten Sandell. Arashi's performances was captured at Stockholm’s Fylkingen club in May 2017. Again, it is a limited-edition of only 200 discs, sold only at Arashi performances, plus a download option.

The word Arashi - 嵐 - means storm in Japanese, and this recording justifies Arashi's reputation as one of the most powerful, exciting working groups. Sakata introduces the first piece with an intimate, gentle solo on his alto sax, but it takes only one minute before Nilssen-Love colors this searching sax solo with a nervous pulse, and another minute until Berthling anchors the commotion with even tougher rhythmic mode. Then Arashi storms - literally - with an uncompromising force and intensity, as if its own energy produces even more addictive kind of energy, leading to an ecstatic and thunderous tour-de-force.

Berthling introduces the second piece with dark and deep-sounding arco solo. Sakata deepens this contemplative mode with his warm-sounding clarinet while Nilssen-Love adds subtle percussive touches. Arashi incarnates itself now as a chamber trio who suggests a surprising, emotional interplay. But this restless trio morphs its interplay again. Now, Nilssen-Love slowly and wisely ups the temperature with fast-shifting polyrhythmic drumming, while Berthling keeps bowing his bass, both offer a perfect sonic decoration for Sakata to deliver his eccentric, free-associative throat-singing. In this segment Arashi charges this piece with an mysterious, story-like narrative. But then Nilssen-Love begins an explosive drums solo and directs Arashi for the last series of fast, super intense assaults until these assaults melt in his ringing cymbals.

Fantastic trio, fantastic performances. Please, more of this right stuff.