Affirmation

Arild Andersen Group

EN / DE
Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen, an ECM musician for more than fifty years, is a masterful player who has always welcomed a challenge. His first recording with his new quartet – including rising stars Marius Neset and Helge Lien (both bandleaders in their own right)– is almost entirely improvised. The players make the leap of faith together and find and develop forms in the moment, an object lesson in spontaneous group creativity. Affirmation was recorded in November 2021 at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio.
Kontrabass-Doyen Arild Andersen, seit mehr als fünfzig Jahren bei ECM, stellt sich gerne immer wieder großen Herausforderung. Die erste Aufnahme mit seinem neuen Quartett – zu dem auch die aufstrebenden Musikprominenzen Marius Neset und Helge Lien (beide selbst Bandleader) gehören – ist fast vollständig improvisiert. Die Musiker gehen gemeinsam dieses Wagnis ein und entwickeln Formen im Moment: ein Lehrstück in spontaner Gruppenkreativität. Affirmation wurde im November 2021 im Osloer Rainbow Studio aufgenommen.
Featured Artists Recorded

November 2021, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Original Release Date

28.10.2022

  • Affirmation, Part I
    (Arild Andersen, Håkon Mjåset Johansen, Helge Lien, Marius Neset)
  • 1One04:29
  • 2Two06:13
  • 3Three04:40
  • 4Four08:22
  • Affirmation, Part II
    (Arild Andersen, Håkon Mjåset Johansen, Helge Lien, Marius Neset)
  • 5Five07:09
  • 6Six01:38
  • 7Seven05:23
  • 8Short Story
    (Arild Andersen)
    07:27
When improvisers really collectively improvise (meaning precisely playing without prepared material only relying on all their collective musical gifts, instincts and personalities in a group interaction with one another) - and they do here playing free on most of ‘Affirmation’ the planets are more likely to align than not given the humanity of the endeavour. Recorded last year at Oslo studio Rainbow, Neset dominates and you get lost in the sound not having to intellectualise in any way which is part of the point of a great record because you pass the barrier into feeling and emotion and certainly there are no barriers to that space anywhere. […] Step away from proxy day dream casting no one is doing anything of the sort. It is individuality that counts most on a record where no-one has anything to prove and a realisation that self-expression and cohesion are all.
Stephen Graham, Marlbank
 
An inspired exercise in improvisational alchemy, it takes the form of the seven group extemporisations of ‘Affirmation Parts 1 and 2’, plus a closing Andersen composition, the melodic ‘Short Story’. Andersen’s spare bass articulations open Affirmation Part 1 unveiling a beguiling sound world of glistering piano, hissing cymbals, eloquent tenor saxophone and Andersen’s atmospheric pedal effects, all of which ebb and flow throughout the album, setting the scene for muscular outbursts and haunting meditations. Lingering sax phrases echo through spectral soundscapes, or take on edge and urgency before settling into a luscious, ballad-like conclusion, all threaded through with Andersen’s majestic, ever-authoritative bass.
Jim Gilchrist, The Scotsman
 
Dieser Bass! Den gibt es nur ein einziges Mal auf der Welt. Arild Andersen schlägt eine Saite an und wartet – und wir wissen in welchem Sagenkreis wir uns befinden. Helge Liens Piano tröpfelt Eiskristalle in den Ton, Håkom Mjåset Johansens Schlagzeug haucht Morgenfrische über die Becken, und Marius Nesets Saxofon legt sich wie ein Nebelhorn in den Wind. […] Führt man sich die mehr als 50-jährige Laufbahn Andersens vor Augen, wirkt dieses Album wie ein ebenso nachdenkliches wie aufrichtiges Selbstporträt des Bassisten. Sich dafür mit einer neuen Band zu umgeben, scheint ihm Auftrieb zu geben. Seine eindringliche Poesie ist dem großen Klangdichter auch mit 76 Jahren noch nicht abhandengekommen. ‘Affirmation’ zählt zu den besten Alben, die ihm je aus den Saiten schlüpften.
Wolf Kampmann, Jazzthing
 
Zu Andersens Grundprinzipien gehört die stetige Weiterentwicklung, die ewige Suche nach neuen Herausforderungen. Für ‘Affirmation’ hat er das Trioformat hinter sich gelassen und sich ein neues Quartett zusammengestellt, zu dem die aufstrebenden Stars Marius Neset (Saxofon), Helge Lien (Piano) und Schlagzeuger Håkon Mjåset Johansen gehören. In sieben durchnummerierten Stücken – allesamt improvisiert und in zwei übergeordnete Teile (‘Affirmation I’ und ‘Affirmation II’ genannt) – suchen sie nach der Magie des Moments. Dabei wagen sie sich sowohl an luftige und mit vielen Leerstellen versehene Klangbilder als auch an hochverdichtete, engmaschige Tempostücke. Andersen tritt in vielen der Kompositionen als Leader auf und übernimmt immer wieder auch die Melodieführung (ganz wundervoll zum Beispiel im melancholischen ‘Four’), in dem er seine Saiten zupft und streicht. Sein sensibles Bassspiel verzichtet dabei ganz auf Tricksereien, sondern stellt sich allein in Dienst der Stücke. Pianist Lien glänzt mal als Antreiber (‘Seven’), mal als Farbkleckser (‘Two’). Saxofonist Neset hat seinen großen Auftritt im getragenen ‘Three’ und Schlagzeuger Johanse besticht durch seine Unaufdringlichkeit und sein eher perkussives Zuspiel. […] Das Zusammenspiel der vier Musiker ist wirklich beeindruckend. Um so aufeinander abgestimmt zu sein, braucht es eigentlich Jahre – oder aber eben den Willen, einander sehr gut zuzuhören. Nur so gelingt dieses Level an Intensität.
Sebastian Meißner, Sounds and Books
 
In a music such as jazz nothing should be taken for granted, and the best laid musical plans are liable to change at a moment’s notice and this is certainly the case on the excellent new album from veteran bassist Arild Andersen. Andersen has been an ECM recording artist for more than half a century, playing on some of the defining albums in the label’s extensive discography. Experience often counts for everything, and in this case an about turn in musical direction mid-session has yielded some fine music making. Taking his new quartet into the studio for their inaugural recording the idea was to record some of the bassist’s compositions, Anderson decided on the second day of the sessions that the group should try some collective improvising. The resulting music has been beautifully captured and this crystal clarity in the sound allows every nuance and gesture to be clearly heard. […] There is a flow and logic about the music made that shows remarkable empathy within the new quartet. The ability to react intuitively and cohesively is at the heart of the music, as is an inherent sense of lyricism. […] There is never a sense of anyone leading proceedings, although Andersen’s rich and full bass sound and subtle use of electronics is at the heart of the music. Ideas move freely within and around the quartet, and while it is Andersen’s bass that is first heard on ‘Affirmation Part I ‘in the opening segment titled ‘One’ all are encouraged to shape the music eschewing the idea of soloists entirely. This emphasis on dialogue and collective communication can be heard throughout and often in a series of duos that appear to create a mood, texture or melodic curve that is then picked up by the quartet, each member finding their own space in the music. […] The album closes, as was originally intended, with a composition by the bassist. Andersen’s ‘Short Story’ is a delicately played out piece that serves as glorious finale to a wonderful album.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views
 
Andersen knüpft an jene europäische Jazztradition an, die er selbst maßgeblich zu Beginn der 70er Jahre mitgeprägt hat. Das Spiel ist frei, ohne zu zerfasern, obschon es keine Vorgaben gibt, entwickeln sich zögerlich, aber treffend gesetzte Themen. Die Band interagiert gut, die Einspielung wirkt so frisch wie aus den frühen Tagen des Bassisten.
Jan Tengeler, Deutschlandfunk Kultur
 
La musique frappe  d’emblée par la variété de ses climats et la finesse  de sa dramaturgie […]’Affirmation Part I‘ explore de ses ambiances tour à tour minimaliste et intensément lyriques, débouchant sur un climax libertaire […] ‘Affirmation Part II’ s’ouvre sur un groove intense pour aboutir à une plage finale méditative d’une beauté évanescente. […] un très bel album, vierge de tout cliché.
Pascal Rozat, Jazz Magazine
With all four performers in top form, ‘Affirmation’ is an incredible sonic expedition.
Filipe Freitas, Jazz trail
 
As an insightful bandleader whose ensembles over the years have brought many significant improvisers to a wider public, this new group highlights this fact, as the bassist is joined by Norwegian players of the next two generations; Marius Neset on tenor saxophone, Helge Lien on piano, and Håkon Mjåset Johansen on drums. What is particularly intriguing about this album, is that (apart from the final track), it is wholly improvised […] The nature of the continually unfolding music, with its changing moods and atmospheres, demands to be listened to from start to finish. And that’s exactly how it should be. At times conversational, at times dynamic and daring, and at times beautiful in its subtle embrace, it’s a richly rewarding journey for the listener.
Mike Gates, UK Vibe
 
Andersen provided the group with minimal direction for these improvisations. Pieces such as ‘Five’ and ‘Seven’ belie that hands-off approach. The symmetry of the first, and the unassuming lyricism of the latter speak to a maturity that is unexpected in a debut recording. The quartet closes ‘Affirmation’ with Andersen's stylishly slow-building composition ‘Short Story.’ The album is full of impressive collaborations, understated shadings from Lien, and long lines and clipped responses from Neset. Both are outstanding leaders in their own right and excel in an open forum. Andersen plays as if he has just reached his peak. An impressive and challenging listen.
Karl Ackermann, All About Jazz
 
Er verließ sich auf die stupenden Fähigkeiten seiner deutlich jüngeren Partner – des Tenorsaxofonisten Marius Neset (* 1985) sowie der je zehn Jahre älteren Kollegen Helge Lien (Piano) und ­­Håkon Mjåset Johansen (Drums) –, ad hoc gemeinsame Spannungsbögen zu entwickeln. Was sich bestens ausging und nun als suitenartige ‘Affirmation Part 1 & 2’ einen fabelhaft organischen Flow aufweist. Wobei sieben Indexpunkte nur Wendepunkte im Geschehen markieren und vor allem der Bequemlichkeit analytischer Zuhörer dienen. Spannend, wie etwa Johansen mit impressivem Beckengeraschel das Spielfeld öffnet, dem erst Helge Lien, später auch Arild Andersen mit schöner Tonalität sanfte Akzentuierungen einweben, bis dann Marius Neset mit eindringlicher Sax-Melodik das frei mäandernde Interplay komplettiert. Man staunt, wie souverän die vier einander Raum zu delikater Entfaltung ihrer Stimmen geben, die in weit offenen Strukturen gelassen oszillieren und dabei immer wieder zu zartem Parlando à deux bis tutti finden. Was schließlich in Arild Andersens ‘Short Story’ kulminiert, deren herzergreifender Wohlklang das grandiose Improvisationserlebnis stimmig abrundet.
Sven Thielmann, Stereo
 
Originally intended to be a collection of seven of Andersen’s compositions, ‘Affirmation’ instead draws on the group’s second day in the studio. The bassist’s suggestion that the band go off-script was accepted, and the resulting two long collective improvisations are object lessons in the art of space and movement. […] Part I spans almost 25 minutes, the quartet slowly feeling its way into a wintry electro-acoustic soundscape as Neset’s tenor yoiks and Lien’s icy ripples build tension and atmosphere. Working outwards from a common tonal centre, the group pulls a succession of forms and melodies from its collective memory. The shorter Part II takes a more tempestuous turn, Neset’s fiery tenor momentarily recalling Andersen’s collaborations with Sam Rivers. With a Breckerish Neset at his fluid best the elegiac ‘Short Story’ gives a glimpse of how things might have been had the group stuck to their original brief. […] Much has been made in the pre-publicity of Andersen’s return to his free-jazz roots, but for me’ Affirmation’ demonstrates that freedom is an ever-present attitude of mind that continues to shape his monumental body of work.
Fred Grand, Jazz Journal
 
Mit den Jüngeren harmoniert der 76-jährige völlig problemlos, sie haben gemeinsam die siebenteilige Suite ‘Affirmation’ konzipiert, die zwischen komponierten und improvisierten, zwischen treibenden, melodischen freien Abschnitten munter hin- und herspringt. Abschließend gibt es mit ‘Short Story’ noch eine wohltuend sanfte Hymne an die Schönheit. […] Traumklang.  
Lothar Brandt, Stereoplay
In November 2021, bassist Arild Andersen brought his new quartet with saxophonist Marius Neset, pianist Helge Lien and drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen to Oslo’s Rainbow Studio. Norway’s pandemic travel restrictions having ruled out the participation of Manfred Eicher on this occasion, the musicians were on their own, ostensibly to document some of Arild’s pieces. On the second day of recording, Andersen proposed some collective improvising: “With nothing planned, we recorded a first part of about 23 minutes, and a second part of about 14 minutes”. These extended arcs of music became the new focus of the album. “Affirmation Part I” and “Affirmation Part II” are presented, unedited, in their entirety. The album is completed by Andersen’s composition “Short Story”.
 
 “Although the quartet had given quite a few concerts, and we’ve played together a lot, we’d never previously done a full set of just improvising. The idea of listening before you play is so present here, as is the way in which everybody comes up with ideas where interplay is the focus. I called the album Affirmation, where you have to trust yourself and trust the others just as much”
 
Freely improvised music, of course, has long been part of Andersen’s work method, all the way back to collaborations with Jan Garbarek and Edward Vesala in the Triptykon project, or the energetic interaction in Sam Rivers’s  trio in the early 1970s.  Now his new group also rises to the challenge in its own way, subtly finding and shaping forms in the moment. For the listener’s convenience, index points indicate where the music takes on a new direction. But the best way to hear Affirmation is to follow it from the outset.
 
Andersen’s bass sets ideas in motion from the first moment of “Affirmation Part I”, ideas soon embellished by Lien’s rippling piano and Mjåset Johansen’s gentle splashes of cymbal colour. When Marius Neset enters, initially to meditate on an iterative motif, Arild envelops it  in an almost orchestral embrace, first with bowed bass then briefly with his pedal-generated sounds, blending acoustic and electronic timbres. The music keeps unfolding.  
 
The quartet has a lot of options at its disposal. The musicians know how to use space, how to hold back and maintain tension, but each of them also has a strong rhythmic sensibility. All four of them are driving the ensemble, in fact, and equally all four are soloists; together, they reach some powerful peaks. “Affirmation Part II” takes off  from Mjåset Johansen’s drumming, soon developing into a lively three way conversation with Andersen and Lien before Neset’s entrance, intensifying the energetic feel – maintained until the final section of the improvised music  which unwinds in an elegiac atmosphere. Andersen’s “Short Story”, a strongly melodic piece, concludes the album.
 
Arild Andersen has been an ECM recording artist since 1970, making his debut with the Jan Garbarek Quartet on Afric Pepperbird, long regarded as a classic of the new jazz. Acknowledged as one of the great jazz bassists – “my goal has always been to make the double bass sing” – he’s also an insightful bandleader whose ensembles over the decades have brought many significant improvisers to a wider public.  In the present Andersen Group,  Arild (born 1945) is joined by Norwegian players of the next two  generations – Helge Lien and Håkon Mjåset Johansen (both born in 1975) and Marius Neset (born 1985).  Neset and Lien are also bandleaders in their own right, and Mjåset Johansen is one of the most in-demand drummers on the scene, working across a wide range of contexts in groups large and small.
 
Marius Neset has been hailed as a major instrumental voice, with The Guardian comparing the power of his sound with Michael Brecker’s.  A dynamic player, Neset learned drums before taking up the saxophone and a strong rhythmic feeling is at the core of much of his work. He has recorded for labels including Edition, ACT and Chandos. Latterly he has also drawn praise for his compositions, recorded with, among others, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Sinfonietta.
 
Helge Lien grew up influenced by both jazz and Scandinavian folk music, synthesizing these elements in his popular trio, described by Dagbladet as “the best Norwegian piano trio in a long time.” His many credits include work with Tri O’Trang, Silje Nergaard, and Arild Andersen’s trio, as well as a duo project with dobro player Knut Hem. In addition to musical activities, Lien is a passionate photographer, and the liner photos in the Affirmation booklet are his.
 
Håkon Mjåset Johansen, from Trondheim, came to the attention of the jazz public with the band Motif whose line-up included Mathias Eick and Ole Morten Vågan. He has had a long association with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, and worked with its guest soloists including Chick Corea and Seamus Blake.
 
Affirmation is released as the Arild Andersen Group takes to the road for a new round of concerts.
 
Further details:
YEAR DATE VENUE LOCATION
2024 July 30 Olavfest- Nidaros Church Trondheim, Norway
2024 August 11 Oslo Opera House Oslo, Norway
2024 August 31 Jazzfestival Tynset, Norway
2024 September 02 Arktisk Kultursenter Hammerfest, Norway
2024 September 03 Jernvaren Hemnes, Norway
2024 September 04 Adlib jazzklubb Bodo, Norway
2024 September 05 Mørkholla Narvik, Norway
2024 September 06 Sortland Jazzfestival Sortland, Norway
2024 September 07 Ungdomshuset Senja, Norway
2024 September 08 Dokkhuset Trondheim, Norway