sat 11/07/2020

CD: Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity - To Whom Buys a Record | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity - To Whom Buys a Record

CD: Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity - To Whom Buys a Record

Energised yet structured reconfiguration of free jazz archetypes

Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity's 'To Whom Buys a Record': a musical roller-coaster ride

To Whom Buys a Record roams through 12 crisply recorded pieces confirming that jazz which isn’t shy of acknowledging its heritage can still have an edge. Though structured and tight, each composition is defined by an attack positing this as an unmediated music: not so much improvisation, but still free-flowing.

Take “Bøtteknott”. A sax takes off; stabbing, then weaving. The drums are relentless. A double bass dives, runs and skips. During the more subdued “Broken Beauty”, a mournful sax refrain gives way to a tense wash of cymbal and then, on its own, pulses of bass. A storm is coming.

The album’s title references Ornette Coleman’s To Whom Keeps a Record, a 1975 collection of 1959 and 1960 recordings assembled without the saxophonist’s knowledge. The combo’s name nods to the 1965 Albert Ayler album Spiritual Unity. It’s clear where Norway’s Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity are coming from, an impression strengthened by their titular drummer playing alongside acoustic bassist Petter Eldh and bass clarinet/sax player Andre Roligheten on To Whom Buys a Record – a line-up paralleling that heard on Spiritual Unity.

Obviously the energised To Whom Buys a Record draws inspiration from the late Fifties and Sixties but, with Nilssen, matters are not so cut and dried. He’s also half of the electronica/acoustic duo sPacemoNkey, integral to the jazz-metal outfit Bushman's Revenge and drums for Susanne Sundfør. Nilssen habitually crosses boundaries and makes musical marriages between genres, and his new album arrives in this context. Nonetheless it's an as-such jazz set, showcasing an aspect of this restless musician – so restless that a new Bushman’s Revenge album, the blues/spaghetti western-inflected Et Hån Mot Overklassen, is also issued this month – which isn't always apparent. Hearing Nilssen’s latest makes it clear why Bushman’s Revenge have such unconventional rhythmic foundations. More importantly, To Whom Buys a Record is an exhilarating musical roller-coaster ride.

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