The quality which above all makes To Whom Who Buys A Record so special is the intensity of interaction between the musicians. The individual performances are exalted enough but group interplay means To Whom Who Buys A Record is far greater than the sum of its parts. In this respect, the album evokes an earlier drums, saxophone and bass masterpiece, Albert Ayler’s Spiritual Unity, which even at its most Dionysian was the work of three musicians flying in microscopically close, in-the-moment formation. Spiritual Unity is one of the hardest acts in jazz to follow.
As well as guest appearances, he will perform with several of his bands – SpaceMonkey, an electronica/dance music mash-up he co-founded five years ago; Bushman’s Revenge, which may be the missing link between Albert Ayler and Black Sabbath and which he co-founded in 2003; the more recently formed Amgala Temple, which draws comparisons with the out-there sounds of Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and electric-era Miles Davis; and Supersonic Orchestra, a barely tamed beast, specially assembled by Nilssen for Molde, which features three drummers, three double-bass players and a ten-piece horn section. All these bands display a complete and admirable disregard for categorization and the jazz police. They are unfettered, high-voltage, transgressive, experimentalist affairs. They are high on dissonance, decibels and passion. They scramble synapses.
The same can be said of Acoustic Unity, an unplugged trio with which Nilssen will also be performing at Molde (augmented for the occasion by the American trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire). Nilssen formed Acoustic Unity in 2014 with bassist Petter Eldh and saxophonist André Roligheten. The group has already released two internationally acclaimed albums, Firehouse and Live In Europe. Its latest, To Whom Who Buys A Record, is a stone-cold certainty for the best-of-2019 lists.
“It feels like a perfect set-up now,” says Nilssen of the group. “Firehouse was our first meeting as a band. Four years have passed since then and we’ve played over a hundred gigs all over the world. We have kept the same loose approach but the interplay is deeper now. It takes the music to a different level. We recorded the new album in one room without amplification. In every sense it was up close and personal.
“It’s about dynamics. With an acoustic lineup you can exploit the whole range of sounds and textures the instruments offer. You can peel back the nuances. Andrè and Petter know how to do that. They are always exploring new ways to play their instruments. They are totally inspiring. They make me a better musician every time we play together.”