Sunday, February 19, 2006

Double double


This was pretty much how
Mats Gustafsson sounded during his duo improv-session with guitarist David Stackenæs at Blaa on Friday. They opened in a double-duo gig which also included a set by Ken Vandermark and drum-wiz Paal Nilsson-Love. While Gustafsson's on-stage antics and cracks-and-pops may be fascinating, I find it musically uninterestingng. His power playing fits better in the no-holds-barred power (sorry for using this word twice in a sentence) -trio The Thing. In this duo setting though, I found him and his partner too thin on themes to be intriguing.

Vandermark and Nilssen-Love are musically richer, thematically stronger, and basically more engaging compared to the opening duo. Vandermark's sound may not be all that distinct, but what he lacks in that department he more than makes up for in having an impeccable sense of melody and theme. His playing fits perfectly with the pulsating playing of Nilsson-Love, who might just be the best jazz drummer around (Sorry, Hamid Drake). The two of them create enough "hooks" to grab your attention, while never being afraid to let things rip.

Let me at the same time recommend FME's Cuts , which teams Nilssen-Love and Vandermark with bassist Nate McBride. Its five lengthy pieces remind me, structurally, of Charles Gayle's classic Touchin' on Trane. Vandermark and Nilssen-Love has a perfect companion in McBride, who has a full and funky sound. The album has enjoyed a lot of playing time on my iPod during the past few weeks. A late entry on my year-end list of 2005, it may also enjoy some critical success this year given that it was just released at the tail-end of last year.

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