Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unit – Elastic Wave
(ECM 2724. Album review by Jon Turney)
Highly admired Norwegian drummer Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic unit have been together since 2014, with this first album on the ECM label, their fourth CD. Long acquaintance between Nilssen, bassist Petter Eldh and André Roligheten on the reeds imparts a mutual trust that lends real luster to their freewheeling trio playing.
All three contribute to compositions that vary widely in mood and texture – aided by Nilssen’s keen sense of dynamics and Roligheten’s use of clarinet and bass saxophone or, on the striking stop The other town, tenor and soprano sax together. There are nods to the sax trio’s expected cues – notes from Joe Lovano and Joe Henderson, tunes reminiscent of ECM stable mates such as Andy Sheppard, and the sound occasionally leans towards Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler.
It’s a well-mixed brew, which allows all three to make intoxicating music. Nilssen can groove powerfully but also generate clouds of rubato: think Paul Motian but filling more of the available space. Roligheten is lyrical or fiercely pressing, as required, and Eldh’s majestic bass is indispensable throughout, as it seems to be on a growing number of current recordings.
The only caveat is that the production compresses into 11 tracks, so nothing is longer than five minutes. Several are much shorter and seem to set a mood and then end before doing anything else. As the compositions are mostly fairly straightforward improvisational vehicles, this makes the recorded procedures a bit disjointed. An impressive set, but perhaps best heard as a calling card for extended live performances.
Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. Find out more on his website or Twitter: @jonwturney
LINK: Elastic Wave on ECM recordings