Click here to [close]

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Gard Nilssen – The Norwegian Drummer Everyone Wants To Play With

Everybody loves to play with Norwegian drummer and sonic adventurer Gard Nilssen, and not only all the forward-thinking musicians of the local Norwegian and Swdish scenes, but also American guitarist Bill Frisell and trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusere, who joined Nilssen’s groups during this summer’s Molde Jazz Festival where Nilssen was Artist-in-Residence.

The versatile Nilssen may be considered a high-priority fugitive by the jazz police. His musical universe is shaped by the most adventurous heroes of jazz on both sides of the Atlantic - Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry and Pharoah Sanders and Alexander Von Schlippenbach and Chris McGregor. But as the title of an album by one of his groups, Cortex, suggests, Nilssen spirals these high-brow influences into an inclusive Avant-Garde Party Music (Clean Feed, 2018) that is charged by more common additives from the lexicon of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple or Frank Zappa and local art-rock singer-songwriter Susanne Sundfør.

Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity - To Whom Who Buys A Record (Odin, 2019) ****½*

Nilssen formed the unplugged Acoustic Trio, featuring reeds player André Roligheten, known from local groups as Friends and Neighbors and Albatrosh duo and leader of his own quartet, and Swedish double bass player Petter Eldh, in 2014. To Whom Who Buys A Record - a clear reference to Ornette cpleman’s To Whom Who Keeps A Record (Atlantic, 1975), is already the third album of the trio, after two acclaimed ones - Firehouse and the 3-discs Live in Europe, with guests Swedish reeds player Fredrik Ljungkvist and Norwegian sax players Kristoffer Berre Alberts and Jørgen Mathisen (both albums released on Clean Feed, 2015 and 2017).

To Whom Who Buys A Record is the outcome of four years of constant touring and over one hundred performances, and it was recorded live in one room and with no amplification. This albums offer the trio in its prime, perfecting its loose yet deep and close interplay, but, still, sounding greater than the sum of its parts.

The Ornette Coleman connection affects the telepathic interplay and dynamics of the Acoustic Unity. It sounds as owes eternal debt to Coleman’s seminal quartet. The powerful rhythm section of Nilsssen and Eldh dances with the same kind of joyful intensity like the one of Blackwell and Haden on - surprise - the openningr “Mr Cherry” (and alluding to Coleman’s repertoire on pieces with titles as “Broken Beauty”, “Rat on a Skateboard”, “Dancing Shadows” and “Elastic Circle”). The Acoustic Unity plays with same kind of uplifting-Dionysian energy of the Albert Ayler Trio on the seminal Spiritual Unity on pieces like “MasakrÜke” and “Bõtteknott”. But the Acoustic Unity is much more than a reflective unit. It has a strong voice of its own and a totally democaratic dynamics. It sometimes sounds rugged and raw, often delicate and moving and always, wherever it finds itself, sounds smart, searching and charismatic one.

What are you a waiting for? Go and buy this record, the physical one, and know that you have invested in the creative spectrum of the future music business.

Bushman’s Revenge - Et Hån Mot Overklassen (Hubro Music, 2019) ***½ 

The power-trio Bushman’s Revenge - comprised of Nilssen, who also plays here also on the vibraphone, Wurlitzer and electronics, bass player Rune Nergaard, and guitarist Even Helte Hermansen - is often described as the missing link between Ayler and Black Sabbath. The trio was founded in 2003 when all three musicians were still at their early twenties and Et Hån Mot Overklassen (in Norwegian: A Mockery of the Upper Class) is its tenth album and the first one to be released on Hubro Music label after a decade-long work with the Rune Grammofon label.

Bushman’s Revenge’s mockery of the jazz upper class is a clever and twisted blend of prog-rock with twangy blues jam, gothic soundscapes with smart improvisations and hypnotic tamboura drones with found-sound samples. Bushman’s Revenge is a trio that enjoys its constant state of multiple and restless identities and never stop clashing and experimenting with new sounds and textures. The best way to deal with it is by simply succumbing to its seductive sonic spell and stop analyzing where one instrument ends or does and where and when another begins.

Bushman’s Revenge takes its Aylerian connection to the most soulful, psychedelic angles and blends its formative, muscular Balck Sabbath ingredients with strong, experimental tendencies (continued on the Molde Jazz Festival with expanded line-up that will feature Swedish reeds player Per "Texas" Johansen and creative, local keyboardist Anja Lauvdal). On Et Hån Mot Overklassen the trio relies less on its sheer power and more on colorful imagination that asks the listener to find the missing links to classics as in Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, soon to be twisted into Sonny Sharrock’s Ask The Ages and morphed again with dynamics of Tony Williams Lifetime’s Emergency! or the meditations on John McLaughlin’s Shakti’s Natural Elements, always processed through Bushman’s Revenge arresting, hypnotic spells. Throughout these brilliant ideas and guess games you can familiarize yourself with the great Hermansen, one of the most modest and underrated guitar heroes that walks these days on this planet. Just listen to his work on the passionate yet delicate ballad “Moves Away From The Door”.

Amgala Temple - Invisible Airships (Pekula, 2018) ***½

Amgala Temple is another power-trio, but one that exhausts its muscular power to its fullest, and a local super-group that brings together blues guitar hero Amund Maarud, bassist-keyboardist-guitarist Lars Horntveth, known as Jaga Jazzist, and Nilssen. The cover and the title of its debut album - Invisible Airships - already hints about the direction of this trio - spacey-psychedelic jam improvisations that search for new sonic frontiers while embracing the art of the moment. If Bushman’s Revenge is described as the missing link between Ayler and Black Sabbath then Amagle Temple may link between Sun Ra adventures in deep space and Swedish psychedelic-prog Dungen or between early Deep Purple and the Nigerian, Tuareg singer-songwriter-guitarist Bombino.

Amgala Temple knows how to control its mighty, wild power. The trio plays with radiant elegance, virtuoso solos, intoxicating grooves and intensifying tension spiced with many surprising twists that lead to the cathartic climaxes. Nilssen sounds as unstoppable, force major hat challenges and keeps pushing Maarud and Horntveth to higher, freer stratospheres. Just listen to the many ways that Nilssen and Maarud climb the heavenly stairways on “Bosphorus” or how Nilssen solidifies the infectious groove of “Avenue Amgala” or cements the aggressive-dramatic atmosphere of “Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine” along the hyper-athletic solo of Maarud. “The Eccentric” even invites you to test your dancing moves, but only if you are fit enough to keep up with the energetic flow of this trio. The last piece “Moon Palace” will remind us all that soon enough we may find out that Sun Ra’s space is indeed the place to be.