34th Vilnius Jazz Festival. 14-17 October, 2021

Paal Nilssen-Love’s Large Unit


Paal Nilssen-Love (NO) – dr, perc, composition
Niklas Barnö (SE) – tp

Mats Äleklint (SE) - tb

Kristoffer Alberts (NO) – ts, as

Julie Kjær (DK) – as, fl

Klaus Holm (NO) – bcl, as, bs

Per Åke Holmlander (SE) – tba

Kalle Moberg (NO) – acc

Ketil Gutvik (NO) – elg

Tommi Keranen (FIN) – electronics

Jon Rune Strøm (NO) – db, elb

Christian Meaas Svendsen (NO) – db, elb

Andreas Wildhagen (NO) – dr, perc

Celio DeCarvalho (BR) – perc

Christian Brynildsen Obermayer (NO) – sound

Paal Nilssen-Love, one of the hardest working and most prolific new jazz drummers, formed his Large Unit in 2013. Comprising Nordic musicians from Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, the band surprised by the ambitions of the team from the very first steps. The band’s line-up alternates to fit various projects.

After its debut in Molde (Paal’s native city) Jazzfestival and the two-track EP First Blow, the band released the massive, more than two-hour long debut album Erta Ale. In 2015, the big band expanded and with two Brazilian percussionists recorded live and in studio, which resulted in the CD ANA. Nilssen-Love generated a new book of tunes for their European tour of 2015, and these were later recorded and appear on the studio album titled Fluku.

A memorable event in the big band’s practice was a project with 20 Oslo music students at the contemporary music festival Only Connect in Norway. The concert featured a commissioned composition More Fun, Please!, which later supplemented the band’s discography.

For Large Unit’s fifth birthday, Brazilian musicians and members of the Ethiopian music and dance group Fendika joined the big band at the Molde Jazzfestival.

An intense powerhouse force on stage is a hallmark of Paal Nilssen-Love’s Large Unit, but it also veers into more subtle and textural passages. All Large Unit’s compositions are written by Nilssen-Love, but the musicians are always given great freedom to contribute their own flavours to the music as well as to showcase themselves as soloists and groups.

Large Unit’s discography amounts to 7 different releases. The band has toured and given concerts all around the world, including Japan and North America. It made special connections with local musicians, dancers and singers during trips to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Nilssen-Love has taken inspiration from his years in groups like Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet, Ken Vandermark’s Territory Band and Frode Gjerstad’s Circulasione Totale Orchestra. Traces from this experience are evident, but still with the aim to create a new group with a sound of its own.

Paal Nilssen-Love himself plays in the Chicago Tentet and Territory Band, he is also known as a member of the trio The Thing, Ballister, Hairy Bones and Original Silence, stage partner for Arto Lindsay, Otomo Yoshihide, Akira Sakata, Jim O’Rourke, Thurston Moore, and many other music coryphaei. The drummer also plays in Frode’s Gjerstad Trio, Sten Sandell Trio, Scorch Trio, in duets with Ken Vandermark, John Butcher, Mats Gustafsson, organist Nils Henrik Asheim, and sound artist Lasse Marhaug.

Paal Nilssen-Love has been jazzing since adolescence as he grew up in a jazz club run by his parents in Stavanger. This determined the young man’s career.

While studying jazz at the University of Trondheim, he formed groups and gained recognition. Nineteen-year-old Paal formed the quartet Element, which later became the basis of his projects with bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and pianist Havard Wiik, and paved the way for the drummer to collaborate with Iain Ballamy and Chris Potter.

In 1996, the musician moved to Oslo, where he became a member of the groups Vindaloo, SAN, Håkon Kornstad Trio and Quintet, Frode’s Gjerstad Trio, and later focused on his own projects and collaborations with Swedish improvisers Sten Sandell and Mats Gustafsson.

In 1999, Paal Nilsen played his first solo concert, and the solo concept has been important part of his work ever since. He believes, paying solo “makes you realize who you really are.”

Being active in several bands at the same time has always been the drummer’s deliberate working method. According to him, all the styles and expression modes cultivated by a musician are details of one whole and playing is a process in which each new piece of music performed is a prolongation of the latest.

Before turning 30, Paal Nilssen established himself in the world of jazz as one of the most profiled drummers in Europe today, he has made numberless performances at festivals and clubs in Europe and USA and participated on more than 200 recordings. In addition, he runs his own annual festival All Ears for improvised music in Oslo.

The drummer has already appeared in Vilnius Jazz with the trio The Thing (2016) and with the US saxophonist David Murray and compatriot I. H. Flaten (2019).

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