Music Reviews

Artist: Frode Gjerstad & Paal Nilssen-Love
Title: Nearby Faraway
Format: CD + Download
Label: PNL Records
Gjerstad on saxophone and clarinet, and Nilssen-Love on a vintage set of Asba drums, have been playing together either as a duo or part of larger ensembles for over a quarter of a century. Such a familiarity breeds confidence and understanding, and with those, the duo can assuredly put together a 9-track, 42-minute collection of stripped-down loose jazz improvisations.

Gjerstad’s sax is often quite frantic, oscillating rapidly between two notes; when switching to clarinet that’s true to a lesser extent but there’s still a willingness to push the instrument towards the edge of screeching. On the other hand Nilssen-Love’s drumming is often more understated, preferring complexity of expression over drama. The drums are surprisingly raw in their recording and low in the mix, giving the whole release a slightly lo-fi, garage tone which does no favours to the virtuosity of the playing.

There’s not a great variety of styles between pieces. By and large it all has one single attitude. While “Flying Circus” is slightly more panicky, with the highest sustained saxophone note I can ever remember hearing, and pieces like “Funny Talks” are a bit more casual, things tend to stay within the duo’s comfort zone performance-wise. As such, forty minutes is probably just about enough. This album is an impressively accomplished performance with a raw and frustrated feel, that doesn’t perhaps stretch its wings as far as it might have.

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