PNL Records was started in 2007 by Norwegian jazz drummer Paal Nilssen-Love
to release his recordings as a solo artist, with his big band Large Unit, and in collaborations with other artists. Fish & Steel
is the self-titled debut from the trio of trombonist Mats Åleklint, tuba player Per-Äke Holmlander, and Nilssen-Love. All three are part of Nilssen-Love's twelve-member Large Unit and its spin-off units, Extra Large, and Small. The two extended tracks were recorded live at the Blow Out
concert series at Kafé Hærverk, Oslo, Norway, in 2018. Nilssen-Love's PNL Records has judiciously released less than a dozen albums in the same number of yearsmost from his own unitsand all his own projects. Fish & Steel
may be one of the more accessible of his albums, but it is a relative comparison considering the company he keeps.
The members of this trio have deep backgrounds in free jazz and have worked with many of the best in the bleeding-edge sub-genre. Nilssen-Love is best known for his projects with Ken Vandermark
, and both Holmlander and Nilssen-Love have recorded with Joe McPhee
, Mats Gustafsson
and Peter Brötzmann
. Åleklint has been a member of Angles 9
since the group's inception and he was a long-time member of Fire! Orchestra
The formation of trombone, tuba, and drums gives the music an unusual low-end sound throughout. It falls on Nilssen-Love to add the sharper contrasts to an otherwise rounded sound. The two lengthy improvisations on Fish & Steel
, each run close to half-an-hour. "Blow Out" features solos, duos, and group improvisations, the latter being the most prominent. The piece is often melodic, sometimes drone-like, but rarely noisy. "Sångbolaget" is the more animated of the two tracks, driven by Nilssen-Love's vigorous stick work and Holmlander's bass-like tuba lines.
The improvisations on Fish & Steel
seem to come so naturally that they sometimes feel composed; it is likely that is the halo effects of their history together and an affinity for the avant-garde. Embedded in the two pieces are many vignettes; occasionally they exude probing urgency or joyful bounciness abbreviating the gulf between free jazz and approachable fun. The depth and range of the players are fascinating as is the music.
Blow Out; Sångbolaget.
Mats Å̈leklint: trombone; Per-Äke Holmlander: tuba; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums, percussion.