Ken Vandermark, Paal Nilssen-Love, Kjetil Møster: the Chicago/Oslo Axis of Freedom
Both men have collaborated in the Norwegian all-star free-jazz outfit, Crimetime Orchestra (Life is a Beautiful Monster, Jazzaway Records, 2004), both are organizers of the winter free-improv festival in Oslo, All Ears, and both owe a great deal to the forefather of Norwegian free jazz, Frode Gjerstad. Nilssen-Love still performs and records as a member of the Gjerstad trio, while Møster recently replaced Gjerstad in the metal-jazz quartet Ultralyd.
> Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love
Seven is the third recorded collaboration between Vandermark and Nilssen-Love, following Dual Pleasure (2002) and Dual Pleasure 2 (2004), both on Smalltown Supersound. It's the most concise to date in the series, running to only three tracks and 44 minutes playing time. The album was recorded live at the duo's home base, the Blå club in Oslo, on April 1, 2005. As is to be hoped with such excellent players, the session finds both in top form, with a constant sense of urgency, passion and adventure, and with plenty to say.
The opening track, "First Hit, Second Fall" (26 minutes long), alternates between condensed, fiery interplay and more abstract passages where the duo investigate the myriads of tones and timbres of instruments. Nilssen-Love enjoys twisting time patterns, and he manages to push Vandermark into stratospheric flights even when he's only playing his cymbals. Vandermark erupts with ideas and his charged playing keeps the music fresh and surprising.
The fourteen-minute piece "Open Too Close" is a muscular, sometimes even brutal tour-de-force in the great tradition of saxophone/drums duos created by John Coltrane and Rashied Ali. Experiencing such boundless energy can leave the listener breathless (but satisfied). Vandermark usually finishes his concerts with a short piece on his clarinet, and this album's closing track, "Universal Funeral," is one of thosebut Nilssen-Love decorates the mournful theme with metallic background noises that deny any possibility of accepting the piece as a simple elegy.
Seven is dedicated to the late Norwegian bassist Bjørnar Andresen, one of the icons of the Norwegian jazz community, who passed away three weeks after the Crimetime Orchestra's last recording session. Vandermark and Nilssen-Love prove yet again that they can create a very expressive painting, full of different colors and textures, and one that is fresh and relevant.
MZN3's debut release delivers the same raw energy as the Vandermark/Nilssen-Love duo. The well-balanced trio comprises three assertive charactersMøster, whose saxophone playing often pays tribute to Peter Brötzmann in the latter's most forceful moments; fellow Norwegian bassist Per Zanussi, co-leader of the Zanussi Five with Møster, member of the Crimetime Orchestra and formerly a founding member of the electro-jazz band Wibutee, whose playing here is notably assured and free; and Swedish drummer Kjell Nordeson, who collaborated with Vandermark in Gustafsson's AALY trio and in Vandermark's School Days, and whose imaginative free-form textures immediately connect him with the great lineage of European creative drummers which includes fellow Swede Raymond Strid and Germany's Paul Lovens.
The eight short tracks on this forty-minute release reveal the trio to be open to a broad spectrum of so-called alien or incompatible influencesmetal, electronic grooves, psychedelic jazz of the 1970s and, of course, free jazzall performed with a wry sense of humor. Møster, the undisputed leader, already sounds very confident, and his ability to combine pre-composed themes with forceful improvisations suggests an earlier version of Vandermarknot necessarily in his tone, but in the breadth of his references, which run from Coltrane through Sonny Rollins and his trios, up to Brötzmann's small ensembles. Møster's busy workload with such bands as Trinity, The Core, Brat, Action Jazz, Gibrish and HAKJ suggests that this release is only one of many to come from the emergent new saxophone star. Bring them on.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: First Hit; Second Fall; Open Too Close; Universal Closure.
Personnel: Ken Vandermark: tenor and baritone saxophone, Bb clarinet; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums and percussion.
Tracks: The Doctor; Buster; Chi'ing Fung; Simoon; Catz Paw; Samiel; Sarq; Harmattan.
Personnel: Kjetil Møster: tenor sax; Per Zanussi: double bass; Kjell Nordeson: drums.