Virtuosic jazz adventurers from America and Scandinavia converge. Info/tix
This expressionistic avant-jazz showcase, hosted by Arts + Lit Laboratory's jazz bookers and initially slated to take place at the Wil-Mar Community Center, seems to be an ever-evolving event. Drummer Paal Nilssen-Love originally signed on to locally premiere structured improvisations with his 14-member Large Unit—a force of talented horn, woodwind, string, electronic, and percussion players (many of whom hail from his native Norway). In an effort to accommodate the anticipated audience with the recent reveal of legendary saxophonist, composer, and improviser Roscoe Mitchell joining the bill, curators have moved the concert to the resonant halls of Trinity Lutheran Church at the intersection of Winnebago and South First Street.
In the past, Nilssen-Love has collaborated with a variety of musicians in Madison's DIY spaces (this particular writer's introduction being a Project Lodge show in January 2011 with saxophonist Mars Williams and contrabassist Kent Kessler), but the ambitions of this Large Unit, which Nilssen-Love formed in 2013, deconstruct expectations of big-band composition. On their sprawling triple-album Erta Ale (2014), the Unit's members explore long-form avenues that distill a sense of controlled chaos. Pieces like "Fortar Hardar" exemplify an eclectic versatility and dynamic range. This track commences with the heaviness of electric bass and guitar of a more rock and fusion-oriented style before shifting to the piercing starkness of horns in its midsection and concluding in a rhythmic fury of drumming. The album's title track initially explores the beauty of extended technique with woodwind texture and timbre, as the sounds are supported by an undulating low end of tuba as well as alternating tempi of bowed and pizzicato contrabass.
Roscoe Mitchell's latest release from this past fall, Discussions, coincidentally channels the distinctive polarity and rousing energy of third stream (chamber music and big band) as on the colorfully cinematic "I'll See You Out There"); however, in this context, one may anticipate less of an arranged sensibility and one more akin to No Side Effects, a double-album of 2005-2006 trio recordings mixed and mastered at Madison's own Audio for the Arts studio. At Trinity, Mitchell is scheduled to perform in three distinct and increasingly intimate phases—first, as part of a quartet with drummer Vincent Davis and contrabassists Jaribu Shahid and Junius Paul, then as a trio with violist Nils Bultmann and Shahid, before a final solo set. These configurations promise an expansion of the tension-filled, transgressive approach Mitchell cultivated with Art Ensemble of Chicago in the late '60s and collaborations in forthcoming decades with fellow giants in the American free jazz scene. Mitchell spoke with Tone Madison in 2016, ahead of a fiercely beautiful trio show at ALL. —Grant Phipps