The late and lamented Derek Bailey has suggested that due to the current state of jazz—"a comfortable reminder of the good old days was one of his more sympathetic characterizations—a complete separation of jazz and improvised music is in effect. Aorta's sophomore effort, Janus, makes a good case for the validity of Bailey's point. The Swedish band, centered around NY-based guitarist Anders Nilsson, immediately presents in the opening "Operation: Janus" the elements which make up its music, none of which are considered jazz.
With Fade to White, B.J. Nilsen abandons his Hazard moniker and Chris Watson's wind recordings (which have largely defined his sound since his breakthrough album Wind), but his artistry remains untouched and the music is as captivating as ever. If the technique and the approach are the same, the sound sources have changed, which makes Fade to White the exact opposite of Land: new and relevant. Nilsen treats his sources more extensively, their true nature now buried in multiple dreamy shrouds of reality. As usual, Jon Wozencroft's cover photographs add possible clues (or divert us from the true answers). "Purple Phase" opens on cavernous sounds, as if Nilsen was revisiting Janek Schaefer's Cold Storage rooms…
Using location recordings, weather, birdsong and radio, BJ Nilsen (Hazard) continues to map and explore uncharted territory. A follower to 2005's "Fade to White", BJ Nilsen develops his work further, based on field recordings and electronics. This time he adds harsher yet clearer harmonies with musical elements to the compositions, creating a beautifully complex and detailed study. Recorded in 2006-7 with mostly analogue equipment, using up to 50 year-old tapemachines, filters and generators that end up being the soft cushion in these cold location recordings.
Goodbye is one of, if not the most expansive and diverse collections pianist Bobo Stenson has ever released. This is his first ECM release in five years. Paul Motian takes over the drum chair vacated by Jon Christensen, and his shimmering, deep listening and subtlety add to the excellence and sheer quiet beauty of this recording. Goodbye is more a recording of songs than jazz pieces – at least in a traditional sense. This trio doesn't swing, they play, they slowly dance through the lyric pieces found here.
Out of Sweden comes new jazz sounds from guitarist Anders Nilsson's group Aorta, a group that glances briefly back at the late '60s and '70s, then forges ahead, showing some possible directions for the music to go if it is to remain vital. Aorta probably won't be doing a week at the Vanguard any time soon, but if there's any music that can even remotely be called jazz and has any chance of capturing the ears of teens and twenty-somethings (the holy grail in music sales), this is it.