Arild Andersen who turns 77 this month as a presence on the classic 1970 album Afric Pepperbird need never have recorded another note given such perfection. But life is demanding. He remains with Europe's greatest living jazz musician Jan Garbarek a cornerstone of the Manfred Eicher sound, as natural a phenomenon in its essential mystique as the Eigernordwand.
Andersen with an all-Norwegian band is here with the Garbarek of today, Marius Neset - whose own album Happy is out later this month - the poet of the piano, Helge Lien, and the drummer Håkon Mjåset Johansen.
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.
Helge Lien, left, Arild Andersen, Håkon Mjåset Johansen, Marius Neset
Go to 'Three' for that effect most. Andersen's harmonic resource identifies itself definitively on 'Four' with Neset riffing softly against the great bassist whose essential beat is best described as an invisible benevolent omnipresence. Andersen's composition 'Short Story,' the only thing composed earlier than the session here and actually the album outlier given that is atypical of the stunning improvisations, stands as a hymn of enchantment in a parallel dimension. The piece compares mightily to Jarrett ''Belonging Band'' classic album My Song (1978). Neset - dream a bit here - is Jan in Belonging (1974), Lien has the chops to even presume to pretend to be Jarrett which to most is a folly of an endeavour no matter how much a player manifests the attempt, Andersen - Palle Danielsson and Johansen the much missed Jon Christensen however much a very different drummer he is. 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. Out on 28 October
New in One Luv - 'Short Story' drawn from Affirmation is streaming