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Gard Nilssen's Supersonic Orchestra: If You Listen Carefully The Music Is Yours [Vinyl 2LP]

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Avant Jazz / Contemporary Jazz
premiera polska:
kontynent: Europa
kraj: Norwegia
opakowanie: Gatefoldowe etui

Jazz Forum * * * * *
Polskim fanom jazzu Gard Nilssen dał się poznać przede wszystkim dzięki współpracy z Maciejem Obarą, z którym nagrał pięć albumów, i którego oczywiście zaprosił do swojego nowego zespołu. Dorobek norweskiego perkusisty jest jednak znacznie bogatszy. Od ponad dekady współtworzy trio Bushman’s Revenge, występował także w zespole Puma. Współpracował między innymi z Tore Brunborgiem, Arildem Andersenem oraz prowadzi własną formację Acous­tic Unity.
Pierwsze wydawnictwo Supersonic Orchestra jest debiutem perkusisty w roli lidera tak dużego składu. Album zarejestrowano na żywo, podczas Molde International Jazz Festival w roku 2019. Zespół zebrany przez Norwega intryguje z kilku powodów. Pierwszy to obecność trzech perkusistów i trzech kontrabasistów. Drugi – każdy członek orkiestry został dodatkowo wyposażony w instrumenty perkusyjne. Trzeci – w obsadzie 16-osobowego zespołu nie ma żadnego muzyka grającego na instrumencie harmonicznym.
Kilka pierwszych sekund albumu sugeruje, że będziemy mieć do czynienia z freejazzową ścianą dźwięku w wydaniu na dużą obsadę. Zanim jednak ktokolwiek zdąży pomyśleć „znowu?”, orkiestra przełącza się w tryb groove’owy. Rytmiczny napęd działa znakomicie i buja przednio. Falujący rytm niesie kolejnych solistów, a gdy przychodzi do elementów wykonywanych wspólnie – stanowi pewną, solidną podstawę pracy zespołu. Pokaźna grupa muzyków jest perfekcyjnie zorganizowana. Wszystko odbywa się płynnie i ze znakomitym wyczuciem. Orkiestra osiąga imponujące, pełne brzmienie bezbłędnie sterując nastrojem i dramaturgią występu. Wachlarz wykorzystanych środków rozpościera się od jasnych, radosnych partii solowych poprzez awangardowe zawijasy, taneczny groove, afrykańską rytmikę aż po potężne uderzenia połączonych sił wszystkich członków formacji.
Gard Nilssen zawarł w muzyce Supersonic Orchestra tradycję dawnych big bandów i dziedzictwo jazzu awangardowego, ale zadbał, by całość brzmiała nowocześnie i przyjaźnie dla słuchacza. Skandynawia może poszczycić się kolejną, obok Angles 9 i Fire! Orchestra, znakomitą orkiestrą.
Autor: Rafał Zbrzeski (Radio Kraków)

freejazzblog.org * * * * *
It's very natural to think of this group conceptually arising from the success of Paal Nilssen-Love's Large Unit: formed by a Norwegian drummer of many A-list Northern European musicians (only trumpeter Thomas Johansson overlaps both groups) playing bold big band charts. Plus the current performance was recorded at the Molde Festival a year to the day after the first disc here. But the musical antecedents go back a lot further to Gard growing up listening to Count Basie recordings and playing with Thomas Johansson in high school and local big bands. Other influences on the sixteen piece orchestra, featuring three drummers, three bassists and seven(!) reeds, were Sun Ra, Coltrane's Africa/Brass band and Fela Kuti.
Another way to look at the group is an expansion of the Gard Nilssen's Acoustic Unity nucleus as all the songs were cowritten and arranged by Nilssen and saxophonist André Roligheten, with three of them, "Bøtteknott", "Elastic Circle" and "Jack", previously recorded by the trio. And despite all the amassed firepower this is far from an unrelenting bash and blare fest bludgeoning the audience with raw sonic force. For one thing the large hall provided plenty of space to dissipate the ensemble sound to more of a joyful roar; but the arrangements are also designed to feature the musicians in smaller subgroups. Also the three drummers are used not so much to amplify the percussive force as to enable them to play around the beat in ways that give them a unique propulsive power.
The concert begins with a brassy Arkestra like take off on "Premium Processing Fee" with big chords preceding free blowing before Maciej Obara emerges on alto, augmented by staccato twin baritone sax lines before they drop off leaving just bass and drums rhythmic underpinning. Then various horn interjections gradually prod things further until the alto is the eye of a cumulative squall before handing the reins to Thomas Johansson's trumpet at a higher momentum level for more of the same culminating in a massive unison motif after which things wind down quickly with isolated horn burblings with no rhythm instruments. Things slide seamlessly into "Bötteknott" which fans of Acoustic Unity might remember from To Whom Who Buys a Record, only now the chorus gets augmented by fuller instrumentation, particularly soprano sax and clarinets producing a lightness over the previous tenor sax setting, counterpoint and the addition of oddly placed grace notes all of which work well. Add a scorching Kjetil Møster tenor solo and you have a successful reworking of the previous song. It's not easy to identify soloists since none of the musicians have as long of a recorded history as, say, Evan Parker, (YouTube aided in pinpointing the previously mentioned) but André Roligheten's distinctive simultaneous soprano and tenor saxes are featured on "Jack". And not every song begins with a large brassy fanfare with at least half starting with a gradual bass and/or drum building of tension and momentum.
The concert closer, “Bytta Bort Kua Fikk Fela Igjen", is heavily Afrobeat influenced and features a spirited Erik Johannesen trombone solo along with much percussion work by all the orchestra. The Molde audience loved it and hopefully post Pandemic aficionados will have opportunities to do likewise. There's really nothing like a performance by a large group like this.
By Stephen Griffith

Editor's info
Fasten your seat belt, please. Get ready for the full tilt, barely tamed, beautiful monster that is Gard Nilssen’s sixteen-piece Supersonic Orchestra. Audacious and experimentalist, like everything the Norwegian drummer and composer touches, Supersonic flouts convention and, in particular, realigns the longstanding relationship between pre-composition and improvisation in orchestral jazz. If You Listen Carefully The Music Is Yours, its debut, was recorded live at the adventurous Molde International Jazz Festival in 2019, where Nilssen was Artist in Residence. The band’s uniquely configured, all-star lineup features three drummers, three double bassists and ten horn players, most of them saxophonists. It is a big band, Jim, but not as we know it.
Extraordinarily prolific, Nilssen has since 2007 recorded over seventy albums, most of them with small groups such as the trios Acoustic Unity, Bushman’s Revenge and Amgala Temple. A handful have been made with big bands: three with the acclaimed Trondheim Jazz Orchestra (Happy Endlings, Savages and Lion), one with Zanussi Thirteen (Live).
Nilssen started playing drums practically before he was able to talk, and despite the dominance of small groups in his discography, his formative listening and performing experiences were with larger ensembles.
“I began drumming when I was two,” says Nilssen. “My father, grandfather, uncle and two cousins played drums. There were drums everywhere. It was a jazz-loving family and I grew up listening to the classic big-band format with Count Basie. I’ve always loved the sound of a big band.” Jo Jones, drummer with the Basie orchestra from 1934 – 1948, is still one of Nilssen’s favourite musicians.
“When I was eight,” says Nilssen, “I started playing in a marching band in my hometown [the seaport Skien], along with my best friend, the trumpeter Thomas Johansson [a member of Supersonic]. Later, when we were teenagers, we also played in a couple of big bands, one at high school and another in town.”
Nilssen is attracted by the scale of instrumental combinations offered by extended lineups. “You can get so many different sounds and textures and constellations inside a big band, it’s practically infinite,” he says. “And if the musicians are as fantastic as those in Supersonic, your arrangements can be dynamic rather than rigid - the music can be wilder and more spontaneous than is standard in big bands. In Supersonic there is plenty of room for the musicians to improvise and be free in the music. That is what we’re best at after all.”
Nilssen composed and arranged If You Listen Carefully The Music Is Yours with Acoustic Unity’s saxophonist, André Roligheten. “André is a genius,” says Nilssen. “He took this project to another level. Making music with him is always pure pleasure.” Nilssen and Roligheten’s approach is sweepingly original but there are reminders, conscious or otherwise, of jazz history within it. The album opens with a feral uproar in which Sun Ra-esque space chords punctuate free-blowing ensemble eruptions, twin devices Ra used to kick off Arkestra performances. Later there are echoes of the eighteen-piece band John Coltrane put together for 1961’s Africa/Brass and with Charles Mingus’ mid-sized Jazz Workshop ensembles: the tumult generated by those lineups is mirrored by Supersonic’s horn section, in which reed instruments, in a reversal of big-band convention, decisively outnumber brass.
If You Listen Carefully The Music Is Yours shifts between carefully scored orchestral passages and looser small-group breakouts, between collective hullaballoo and intimate dialogue, between dissonance and melodicism, between passion and reflection. It is shot through with twists and turns. Sixty years ago, The New Yorker magazine’s renowned jazz critic, Whitney Balliett, defined jazz as “the sound of surprise.” Supersonic’s performance overflows with it. Among other modern big bands, perhaps only those led by the Japanese pianist and composer Satoko Fujii deliver the unexpected so satisfyingly.
Supersonic benefits substantially from its scaled-up bass and drum sections, and not simply in terms of volume or traction. “Having three drummers gives each one of us more space to play around the beat,” says Nilssen. “We can go in and out of it, be more creative and add colours to the music. It means Håkon [Johansen], Hans [Hulbækmo] and I don’t have to be timekeepers all the time, which we never wanted to be in the first place. You don’t really need much timekeeping with this band anyay. You just press play and go.” The same broadening of vistas extends to the bass section. (The other big band to use three double basses so effectively in 2019 was the Art. Ensemble of Chicago on We Are On The Edge).
If You Listen Carefully The Music Is Yours also carries resonances of music from beyond the American tradition. The album concludes with the storming “Bytta Bort Kua Fikk Fela Igjen,” whose Afrobeat-inflected backstory is winningly foregrounded at various points (most explicitly at 5:00, 11:51, 12:20 and 13:17). Nilssen is a longtime fan of Fela Kuti’s music.
Along the way, the album revisits some of Nilssen and Roligheten’s compositions for Acoustic Unity, with orchestral interpretations of “Bøtteknott,” “Elastic Circle” and “Jack.”
Few things in jazz are as exciting as the sound of a big band in full flight. Supersonic was a sensation at Molde and it deserves to be toured. But economics mean that any further performances are likely to be strictly local. If You Listen Carefully The Music Is Yours, however, makes sixty-six minutes of maybe one-off live magic available to everyone. Remember your seat belt, please.
by Chris May / January 2020

Hanna Paulsberg: tenor saxophone, percussion
Kjetil Møster: saxophones, percussion
André Roligheten: saxophones, bassclarinet, percussion
Per “Texas” Johanson: tenorsaxophone, contrabass clarinett, clarinet, percussion
Maciej Obara: altosaxophone, percussion
Mette Rasmussen: altosaxophone, percussion
Eirik Hegdal: saxophones, clarinet, percussion
Thomas Johanson: trumpet, percussion
Goran Kajfes: trumpet, percussion
Erik Johannesen: trombone, percussion
Petter Eldh: doublebass, percussion
Ingebrigt Flaten: doublebass, percussion
Ole Morten Vågan: doublebass, percussion
Hans Hulbækmo: drums, percussion
Håkon Mjåset Johansen: drums, percussion
Gard Nilssen: drums, percussion

A1. Premium Processing Fee
A2. Bøtteknott / Elastic Circle
B1. Teppen Dance
B2. The City Of Roses
C. Jack
D. Bytta Bort Kua Fikk Fela Igjen

nagrano: Recorded at Amper Tone studio, Oslo 25th & 26th of February 2019

more info: www.musikkoperatorene.no



Odin (NO)
Gard Nilssen's Supersonic Orchestra
If You Listen Carefully The Music Is Yours [Vinyl 2LP]
Vinyl 2LP
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