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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Gard Nilssen's Supersonic Orchestra - Family (We Jazz, 2023)

The sophomore album of Norwegian drummer-composer Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra features some of the strongest voices of Scandinavian jazz (with one Polish sax player). The Supersonic Orchestra is a 17-piece big band - with reeds players André Roligheten (who plays in Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity and co-composed all pieces with Nilssen and arranged the music), Eirik Hegdal (who hosts Nilssen in Team Hegdal), Per ”Texas” Johansson (of Mats Gustafsson’s Fire! Orchestra), Kjetil Møster (of The End), Mette Rasmussen, Maciej Obara (the Polish one who hosts Nilssen in his Quartet) and Signe Emmeluth (of Emmulrth’s Amoeba and Fire! Orchestra); trumpeters Thomas Johansson (of Large Unit) and Goran Kajfes (of Angles and Fire! Orchestra); trombonists Erik Johannessen (who played with Hegdal and Nilssen in lord Kelvin) and Guro Kvåle (the youngest musician here, only 21 years old at the time of the recording); double bass players Petter Eldh (the third member of Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity and of Punkt.Vrt.Plastik), Ole Morten Vågan (who with Eldh helped Nilssen and Roligheten with the compositions, and of Obara Quartet) and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten; drummers Håkon Mjåset Johansen (of I.P.A.), Hans Hulbækmo (of Atomic) and Nilssen (who was born and raised in a musical family consisting of nothing but drummers and also plays in Bushman’s Revenge and with Norwegian pop artist Susanne Sundfør). The Supersonic Orchestra was captured live in top form (and with excellent sound thanks to recording and mixing engineers Bård Ingebrigtsen, Jørgen Brennhovd and Marc Broer) at Paard Van Troje during the Mondriaan Jazz Festival in Den Haag in October 2022.

The title of the album reflects the essence of this exciting performance. The close rapport between these experienced musicians, with a few younger ones, who have played together in so many formats over the years charges the music with unstoppable, uplifting energy and love for the music that, in turn, radiates its captivating emotional power immediately to the audience. The music was created for the totality of the ensemble sound, the family, and not for pyrotechnical solos. You feel the same kind of joyful rhythmic vibe and healing power in the music as when you first heard the iconic Chris McGregor Brotherhood of Breath or the Art Ensemble Of Chicago.

American drummer Chad Taylor contributed liner notes to Family and observed the essence of ease in the Supersonic Orchestra and the feeling of family. He also found the strong rhythmic basis of the Supersonic Orchestra - three double bass players and three drummers - in the Kenny Clarke – Francy Boland Big Band that operated in the late sixties and Nilssen discovered while composing music for Family. “Family is not defined by our genes, it is built and maintained through love and care, This music feels alive with hope, sincerity, joy and courage”, Taylor concluded. Fantastic performance. Great album.