Paal Nilssen-Love

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Juliana Venter – vocals
Thomas Johansson – trumpet
Signe Emmeluth – alto saxophone
Oddrun Lilja Jonsdottir – electric guitar
Kalle Moberg – accordion
Christian Meaas Svendsen –  double bass & bass guitar
Paal Nilssen-Love – drums & percussion

photo by Petra Cvelbar

Paal Nilssen-Love CIRCUS emerged as a direct result of the travel restrictions caused by the corona pandemic. The Oslo World Music Festival asked Nilssen-Love to put together a new band of musicians based in Norway. He came up with players from different camps, experienced in various styles: ethnic, classical, contemporary, jazz, free jazz, noise, pop etc.

The seven unique voices were gathered around common musical ideas and ways of thinking and a shared understanding of musical freedom. Each musician with a responsibility for the musical development, each with a mission to surprise each other and the audience as well.

Nilssen-Love has composed the music but the songs are more like maps with freedom for each musician to choose direction and intensity. 

Nilssen-Love draws on inspiration from tours and studies over the past years in Ethiopia and Brazil, in addition to his long-standing fascination for music from Mali and Senegal. But all is rooted in a broad defined improvised music. This makes Circus a highly unpredictable band – exciting, intense, exhilarating, touching on different feelings which can be sad as well as fun – indeed, watching them live is like going to the circus!

The band’s premiere made a huge impression on audience and press alike and was by many considered the highlight of the festival. 

To quote some writers (bear in mind that this was during COVID19-restrictions with a limited seated audience):

Jungle fever in the circus: The cheering lifted the roof during this concert and it’s a miracle that we didn´t all descend to civil disobedience, kicked down the tables and started dancing. (Audun Vinger, Jazz i Norge)

Paal Nilssen-Love Circus gives us a dance party, and it hurts to stay seated with music like this. Riffs from Ethio-jazz and Brazilian rhythms float in a wild, freely improvised nude bath! (Torkjell Hovland,

A studio recording is to be released in the fall of 2022.

Large Unit

photo by Peter Gannushkin

Thomas Johansson (NO) – trumpet; Mats Äleklint (SE) – trombone; Kristoffer Alberts (NO) – tenor and alto saxophone; Julie Kjær (DK) – alto saxophone and flute; Klaus Holm (NO) –  Bb clarinet, alto and baritone saxophone; Per Åke Holmlander (SE) – tuba; Kalle Moberg (NO) – accordion; Ketil Gutvik (NO) –  electric guitar; Tommi Keranen (FIN) – electronics; Jon Rune Strøm (NO) –  double and electric bass; Christian Meaas Svendsen (NO) –  double and electric bass; Andreas Wildhagen (NO) –  drums & percussion; Paal Nilssen-Love (NO) –  drums & percussion; Celio DeCarvalho (BR) – percussion; Christian Brynildsen Obermayer (NO) –sound

Paal Nilssen-Love is one of the hardest working and most prolific musicians there is. Known from bands like The Thing, Ballister, Hairy Bones, Chicago Tentet and Original Silence, as well as collaborations with musicians like Arto Lindsay, Otomo Yoshihide, Akira Sakata, Ken Vandermark, Jim O’Rourke, Peter Brötzmann, Thurston Moore and many others, and with an impressive live activity. In 2013 he decided it was time to start his own big band ensemble, and Large Unit came to life. Consisting of mostly younger Norwegian musicians, Large Unit manifests as an intense powerhouse force on stage, but also veers into more subtle and textural passages. The group is also fortunate to include members from the other Nordic countries; Finland, Sweden and Denmark. In other words: Nordic music at it’s best!

Large Unit burst into life at Molde Jazzfestival July 2013 and has since then toured Europe, Ethiopia, Brazil, Japan and USA. 

After the two-track EP “First Blow” in 2013, they released the massive, more than two hour long debut album “Erta Ale” in 2014 – a format size fit for the band. They expanded to 14 members (including two Brazilian percussionists) in August 2015 and recorded live and in studio which resulted in the CD named “ANA”. The album combines Brazilian rhythms, free blowing and big band riffing in a highly successful way. Nilssen-Love had a new book of tunes for their European tour of 2015 and these were later recorded and appear on the studio album titled “Fluku”. They also expanded to include 20 music students from Oslo in connection with contemporary music organisation Ny Musikk’s festival Only Connect in Oslo. This concert, consisting of the commissioned piece “More Fun, Please!” was released in the spring of 2018.

All Large Unit’s compositions are written by Nilssen-Love, but the musicians are always given great freedom to contribute their own flavors to the music. The band is stripped down to single players, duos etc., and at times split into several groups. The power of the whole group is of course a treat in itself when in full blast. 

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

At Molde jazzfest 2018 Large Unit was extended to 21 persons, adding musicians from Brazil and from the Ethiopian music/dance band Fendika, and throwing Dutch guitarist Terrie Ex in the mix as well. Large Unit EthioBraz nowadays consists of all Large Unit musicians plusMelaku Belay (ET) – dance; Zinash Tsegaye (ET) – dance; Nardos Tesfaye (ET) – vocals; Habetamu Yeshambel (ET) – masingo (stringinstrument); Mesay Abebaye (ET) – kobero (drums); Sentayehu Tadasse (ET) – krahr (stringinstrument); Robel Solomon (ET) – bass, Terrie Ex (NL) guitar

Ethiobraz is a colorful cross-pollination, an exuberant tribute to musical openness, positive energy and life. Twenty-one artists from three continents, together account for an exciting, emotionally intense trip (Guy Peters)

Watch EthioBraz


New Brazilian Funk

Frode Gjerstad (N) – alto saxophone
Paulinho Bicolor (BR) – cuíca
Negro Leo (BR) – vocals, electric and acoustic guitar
Felipe Zenicola (BR) – electric bass
Paal Nilssen-Love (N) – drums
Imagine a meeting between Ornette Coleman’s electric band and Hermeto Pascoal. Very electric, quite danceable, wild and rapid-changing grooves with clear links and references to samba and samba rock.The band met and played their first concert in 2018 at Roskilde Festival in Denmark, performing in front of an enthusiastic audience of 2000 people shaking their asses and dancing through the course of the band’s 50-minute concert. The concert in its entirety is released on CD on PNL Records

Although the band is run by Nilssen-Love, the music is free improvised and all members are equal. The band members were chosen by Paal because of their individual qualities and his own musical relation with them. Frode Gjerstad, the oldest member of the group, took Paal on his shoulders when Paal was only 16. Since then, they´ve worked off and on in large groups but mostly duo and trio. Frode Gjerstad has for years and years sought out free improvisation as his means and remains the strongest figure of free music in Norway. Felipe Zenicola is a new figure on the scene of improvised music and is mostly known for his work with Chinese Cookie Poets. He plays the electric bass like no one else: full of energy and with quite a stamina. He´s in it for the long run. Paulinho Bicolor is somewhat a rare figure on the scene in Brazil. He knows all the various percussion instruments of Brazilian music, not least the string instrument cavaquinho. But Paulinho decided to focus on the cuíca only. He has mastered the instrument which is actually a friction drum. He is continuously pushing himself, the instrument and in fact, the instrument´s traditions to another level.New in the band is Leonardo Campelo Gonçalves, stage name Negro Leo. A singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who stands out from Brazil’s flourishing experimental music scene. By adding elements of free jazz, no-wave, African-noise tropicalia, and floating psychedelia, he gives Brazilian pop music a whole new and surreal dimension. With lyrics addressing delirious images of everyday life, Negro Leo’s quirky take on samba is a bold representation of Brazil’s bustling society of nowadays.
Be prepared for a new take on what Brazilian funk and improvised music can be, NOW!

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