It is hard to choose which duo partner of drummer Paal Nilssen-Love to favor over another, as there are simply so many to pick from. There are his collaborations with Ken Vandermark, heard on their Chicago Volume and Milwaukee Volume (Smalltown Superjazz, 2009); the fine Peter Brötzmann session, Woodcuts ((Smalltown Superjazz, 2010); Mats Gustafsson's Splatter (Smalltown Superjazz, 2007); or, a personal favorite, Joe McPhee's Tomorrow Came Today (Smalltown Superjazz, 2008).
Nilssen-Love can also be heard with Magnus Broo, Nils Henrik Asheim, John Butcher, Lasse Marhaug, Anders Hana, and, perhaps his longest sustained partner, multi-reedist Frode Gjerstad. The two have been collaborating for nearly 20 years in the Circulasione Totale Orchestra, the longstanding Gjerstad trio with bassist Øyvind Storesund, and in duo performance.
The two Norwegian players speak the same language: free jazz. This datea live session from Club Gromka in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in June 2008delivers a torrent of forcefulness and passion which will not be surprising to their followers.
As a drummer, Nilssen-Love eschews the jazz canon for a more disheveled pulse. He's like a dinner guest that comes wearing a tuxedo with his shirt untucked and three days growth of beard. His beats are dynamic, yet asymmetrical. Paired with Gjerstad the sound is animated and buzzing. Gjerstad favors the upper registers hereeven on his bass clarinet which, at times, is difficult to distinguish from his alto saxophone. With this music, the themes are dynamism and passion, and the two charm the crowd with their constant mutable nature. Gjerstad feels no need to tether Nilssen-Love's playing to the ground. And likewise, the drummer responds to Gjerstad with his jumbled flurry of sticks and beat.
This is music that grips by the throat from the first note.
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