Lean Left is an alternative super-group that brings together two established duos – guitarists Terrie Ex and Andy Moor from the legendary Dutch group The Ex, who has been working together since the early nineties, and Chicagoan reeds player Ken Vandermark and Norwegian powerhouse drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, who have been working together as a duo and in many other formats and projects since 2000. Lean Left came together in February 2007 on a split bill in Amsterdam with the two duos and through a myriad of different projects, bands, guest features, one-offs, and the like, the quartet line-up of Lean Left soon became the utility pole of their shared activities. Lean Left releases now its eighth album, a full live set, 72 minutes, of a concert at Warsaw’s Pardon To Tu club from September 2018 while the quartet toured Europe.
Needless to say, Ex, Moor, Vandermark, and Nilssen-Love are highly inventive and resourceful improvisers who often enjoy high-octane performances. But the concert at Pardon To Tu proves much more about the wisdom in the shared experiences and the importance of camaraderie solidifies in countless times on stage and on the road that allows Lean Left to visit familiar, super energetic territories but also to shed new lights on these sceneries, and to push further, deeper. And, indeed, the free-improvised with no preconceived movements «Medemer» (the title of the first book by Nobel Peace Prize awardee and Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed) tells many stories, none of them may be new, but all of them sound fresh and kicking.
Nilssen-Love produced the album with his close friend, noise meister Lasse Marhaug, who also did the mixing and mastering and the cover design. Ex guitar was placed on the left channel and Moor on the right channel and Vandermark and Nilssen-Love are all over. These four musicians know how to stage a concert as a nuanced drama play, beginning with the jangled duel of Ex and Moor at the opening phase, slowly building a chaotic, distorted tension but with surprising, moving detours; Vandermark and Nilssen-Love take over and mix tough and rough sax blows and shouts mixed with Brazilian rhythmic patterns, soon exploding in an irresistible, bluesy groove, with Ex and Moor; but Lean Left avoids attaching itself into common patterns and continues to search for new avenues, settle for a while on a massive rhythmic pulse with full force and simply push the temperature higher and higher, but return again to the searching mode; The fourth phase alternates between the lyrical-bluesy playing of Vandermark, the free-form, thorny guitar improvisations of Ex and Moor and sensual percussive sounds of Nilssen-Love, patiently all lock as a greater-than-its-parts rhythmic entity, accumulating power, and volition until a total, exciting meltdown; Now, when Lean Left reaches climatic climax Nilssen-Love continues to introduce new rhythmic ideas that clearly are well received by Vandermark, Ex and Moor, always eager to explore more ideas and undercurrents. The encore gels immediately into an urgent, layered bulb of spiky sounds and reckless energy, eventually locking in another nuclear fusion.
This is a kind of performance that you may wish to be there, to feel the invigorating excitement, the buzzing energy, the feeling of being one with such a great group, playing in its top form, and even more.
Terrie Ex (el.g), Ken Vandermark (ts, cl), Paal Nilssen-Love (dr), Andy Moo: (el.g)