Album reviews

Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity – ‘Elastic Wave’

Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity – Elastic Wave
(ECM 2724. Album review by Jon Turney)

Widely admired Norwegian drummer Gard Nilssen’s Acoustic Unity have been together since 2014, with this ECM label debut their fourth CD release. Long acquaintance between Nilssen, bassist Petter Eldh and André Roligheten on reeds confers a mutual confidence that gives a real lustre to their freewheeling trio playing.

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All three contribute compositions, which vary widely in mood and texture – aided by Nilssen’s fine sense of dynamics and Roligheten’s use of clarinet and bass saxophone or, on the arresting The Other Village, tenor and soprano saxes together. There are nods towards the expected saxophone trio landmarks – hints of Joe Lovano and Joe Henderson, tunes that call to mind ECM stablemates such as Andy Sheppard, and the sound leans at times towards both Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler.

It’s a thoroughly mixed brew, which allows all three to make some intoxicating music. Nilssen can groove mightily but also generates clouds of rubato: think Paul Motian but filling up more of the available space. Roligheten is lyrical or fiercely urgent, as required, and Eldh’s majestic bass is indispensable throughout, as seems to be the case on an increasing number of current recordings.

The only reservation is that the production squeezes in 11 tracks, so nothing runs over five minutes. Several are much shorter, and seem to establish a mood then draw to a close before doing anything much else. As the compositions are mainly fairly simple vehicles for improvisation, this makes the recorded proceedings a little disjointed. An impressive set, but perhaps best heard as a calling card for extended live performance.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol. Read more on his website or Twitter: @jonwturney

LINK: Elastic Wave on ECM Records

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