Tuesday, September 02, 2008

El is a Sound of Nilssen-Love

Frode Gjerstad: clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone
Marshall Allen: flute, alto saxophone, EVI
Paal Nilssen-Love: drums

Thursday, August 28, 2008 @ Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia basks in the aftermath of a super nova. On a pleasantly warm night in late August the once Earthly presence of Sun Ra - and those who were in his orbit - still sends ripples of sound that burn the curious ear. A modest table of CDs and vinyl offerings finds Danny Thompson selling the sound of joy from a time when Ra burned bright. Several records on the table feature personnel lists of mind-blowing dimensions.  Hiroshima in particular begs to be listened to with an unreal lineup of Ra, John Gilmore, Marshall Allen, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Lester Bowie, Philly Joe Jones, Richard Davis, Don Moye and Clifford Jarvis. Clearly an artifact of nearly incomprehensible value in the history of creative improvised music. These ears nearly weep that so many from that set have already ascended to the next dimension - still craving one more celestial encounter with one's forebears. Marshall Allen is one such presence still burning strong in a Sun Ra orbit.  A powerful aftershock of that super nova that still lingers in the City of Brotherly Love.

Standing in close proximity to that fire, and the still red-tinged beard of Marshall Allen, was the Norwegian born Frode Gjerstad.  A free improvising reedsman with deep roots and an innate ability to tap into the joy of building a ferocious sound.  The periods of time when the soundscape turned around the dueling collaborations of clarinet and EVI suggested that this pair could easily hold their own as a duo.  

But then Paal Nilssen-Love was hardly an unwelcome intrusion into this mix.  Tastefully selecting his entrances (and well timed moments of restraint) he built a layer that was both subtle and aggressive when it needed to be.  It was easy to understand why Nilssen-Love is favored collaborator with so many creative improvisers.  The drum kit - often enhanced with small gongs upon the membrane drum heads or a chain collapsed upon the tom-tom in a heap - rolled and tumbled in creative support with the spaced-out jams of Allen and Gjerstad.  

A fortuitous meeting of three improvisers willing to put a bite into their sound.  Over the course of one blistering set the Philadelphia Art Alliance was the place.  An otherworldly tradition manifested itself in jagged sonic shades as a reminder of the timeless glow of both past future and present future sounds.  

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