Sun & Steel is another monster band of Norwegian master drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, featuring double bass player Øyvind Storesund (who played with Nilssen-Love in the Frode Gjerstad Trio), and young sax player-vocalist Marthe Lea (who plays in Nilssen-Love’s Large Unit) and pianist Isach Skeidsvoll (who recently collaborated with Gjerstad, Twenty Fingers, Relative Pitch, 2021). The debut album of this quartet was recorded at the Motvind Festival at Nasjonal Jazzscene in Oslo on July 2021. Sun & Steel is also the title of a piece that Joe McPhee and Nilssen-Love used to play together (check Tomorrow Came Today, Smalltown Supersound, 2008 and the Candy box set, PNL, 2015).
You realize instantly that the stressful feeling of the Ccovid-19 restrictions disappeared when Nilssen-Love hits the drum set, augmented now with his gong rig, and leads Sun & Steel with his unstoppable, volcanic energy into a powerful, rhythmic journey, aptly titled Off the Hook! Lea and Skeidsvol prove to be brilliant, equal partners for this kind of wild ride and both are well-versed in the legacy of ecstatic, free jazz and playing the ‘out’ techniques. Skeidsvol sounds at times as if he studied thoroughly the discography of Cecil Taylor.
Lea and Skeidsvol also balance the dense commotion with touching, lyrical contributions, and Lea and Nilssen-Love also quote a few Ethiopian themes that are favorites of the Large Unit. Øyvind Storesund’s calm double bass playing anchors this quartet interplay, and he also adds a few impressive solos. And Nilssen-Love leads this Sun & Steel wisely, letting enough space for the individual voices and knowing when to collect all for thunderous, cathartic climaxes.
Still, this live performance is a unique, powerful one. You can feel the true identity of Sun & Steel morphing from an ad-hoc outfit to a force to be reckoned with. Off the Hook! Is a performance that deserves to be written into the history books. The cover art of Nilssen-Love’s father, Terry Nilssen-Love captures the Sun & Steel’s bright colors and its tough, pure energy.
Marthe Lea (ts, v), Isach Skeidsvoll (p), Øyvind Storesund (b), Paal Nilssen-Love (dr, Paiste gongs, cymbals)