for human beings
Release Date: May 15, 2020 (digital-only release)
Label: BumbleBee Collective
With the release of for human beings, Sweden-native, New York City-based flutist and composer Elsa Nilsson debuts her new collaborative group South by North East (SXNE). On this five-piece improvised suite, Nilsson is joined by Bam Bam Rodríguez on bass and Rodrigo Recabarren on drums. Recorded on January 24, 2020, for human beings has since taken on a whole new perspective as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. The video for a clip from the track “Forward” will be released on May 12th. To mark the release day, SXNE are inviting fans to join a Zoom meeting with them - at 1pm (EST) on May 15th, the attendees will join the band in each colouring a letter while listening through the album. You can register in advance for this meeting here.
Upon returning to these recordings amidst the early days of isolation, this trio found glimpses of solace and comfort. With each playback, these three musicians were struck with new thoughts, emotions and felt a multitude of fresh, creative doors opening. As many people are now faced with unprecedented space in their day, Elsa, Bam and Rodrigo want to share each of their creative spaces with their audience - a space to be whatever one needs to be; To sit in stillness, or in turmoil. SXNE invites listeners to join them in making something together - Bam is making stop motion animations and doing daily live streams of music to breathe, write, meditate, read and feel. Elsa is creating mandalas for fans to color that when combined, will build the words of the Rumi poem referenced in the track titles. Rodrigo is transcribing and building music around rhythms of important speeches and making life beautiful for his wife and son.
for human beings follows the February 2020 release of Hindsight, Elsa Nilsson’s third album as a leader, a recording on which - according to Hot House Magazine - "Elsa imbues resonating, percussive lines with profound emotional responses to personal experiences and global issues." On for human beings, the flutist and composer’s combined passion for music, protest and justice is evident once again. Living in New York City, each of these musicians are particularly exposed to the sheer juxtaposition that has presented itself - the contrast between a prior life in a loud, fast and stressful city to one that has come to a frighteningly sudden and unexpected halt.
“We used to live in a world where just being is boring, and arrived at one where "just" being became overwhelming. That idea is what we want to represent with this music.” -Bam Rodriguez
Each composition on this five-track journey moves in many directions, just like many listeners might now find themselves exploring new places, emotionally and mentally, during isolation. “Every day contains so much space.” As Elsa continues to reflect, “when we recorded this, there was no way we could have known where it would go. These tracks lay waiting for weeks untouched after recording because we were busy. Life was moving fast. And then suddenly it slammed to a stop. The loss is overwhelming - both the loss of our heroes, friends and loved ones, and the loss of the lives we knew.”
This music then returned to Rodrigo, Elsa and Bam in the midst of the global pandemic. In it, they heard all the thoughts, wearies and emotions they were now experiencing - the fear and anger, the deafening silence of the empty streets of New York. But also the space to move within - to take the time to have those long conversations with oneself that used to be hard to find time for; To sit in stillness and confront their thoughts, their fears, their dreams, the realities of what they actually want out of life.
Keep walking, though there is no place to get to.
Don't try to see through the distances.
That's not for human beings. Move within,
but don't move in the way fear makes you move.
Rumi’s poem, Keep Walking inspired the titles for each of the five improvised pieces on this recording:
Release Date: February 21, 2019
Label: BumbleBee Collective
Sweden-native, New York City-based flutist and composer Elsa Nilsson is proud to announce the February 21strelease of Hindsight, her third album as a leader. Hindsight is a direct reaction to the result of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the issues that have manifested since; it is a ten-track collection of resistance compositions, embedded with the rhythmic chants of a nation. The Elsa Nilsson Quartet features Jeff McLaughlinon guitar, Alex Minier on bass and Cody Rahn on drums/percussion. Throughout 2020, Elsa will tour this music across Pennsylvania, North Carolina, West Virginia, Vermont, Gothenburg, Malmö, Stockholm and Copenhagen. Before and during this tour, videos for each of the tracks will be released – each of which have been created by individuals who experience, or are at least exposed to the direct effects of the social and political disorder brought to light by these compositions.
With every political and social issue that resonated with the flutist came a new composition – an outlet for objection and resistance. Upon bringing this music to her band, the individual rage, frustration and confusion that Nilsson had been harboring found support and solidarity as the musicians added their thoughts and perspectives, giving the music expanded depth. Nilsson says: “the music became a record of our reactions to the changing world around us. My mission with Hindsight is both to express my feelings around the topics I care deeply about, show solidarity with everyone who is directly affected and gratitude for everyone who is showing up to make a difference in any way they can.”
Music is both a reaction to and an inﬂuence on its culture. The ﬂute is her voice and on Hindsight Elsa Nilsson uses it to translate the language of political movement. Music begins to communicate where language ends. It is an attempt to describe what we can’t even understand – to communicate a thought that hasn’t been fully formed. This band imbibes the energy of rock n’ roll, the cadence of street protest, the visceral improvisations of jazz and the compositional language of Classical music to express the emotional turmoil that goes beyond words in reaction to the state of our world. There is democracy in improvised music. All voices are heard and are integral to the argument, even if one voice is leading the conversation. Each person leads the discussion, at some point or another. If a voice is missing, the absence is felt. There is democracy in music, but there is also music in democracy. Elsa saw that music in the protest chants that inspired this album. The improvisations and compositions heard on Hindsight intertwines dialog from speeches and the rhythms from protest marches that Elsa has witnessed and been a part of.
“Changed In Mid Air” was inspired by the infamous Travel Ban. It captures the uncertainty of the traveler, the fear of having the rug pulled out from under you and the action of all those who came to the airport to protest and help. The chant used is “Say It Loud, Say It Clear, Refugees Are Welcome Here”. “Worth The Risk/Maria” describes the process of realizing you are being forced to leave your home. There are moments of imagining a better life, the dream of who you could be if you get to where you are heading safely. No one chooses to be a refugee, but some things are worth the risk. “Maria” is the storm. Both the literal storm of Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico and the figurative storm of the dangers of imigration and the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers at the border. “Will Help Come” expresses the long wait for aid after Hurricane Maria hits. Faith turns into desperation.
“Enough Is Enough” forces its audience to reflect upon another recent tragedy in US history. The tune is 6 minutes and 20 seconds long – the exact length of time that the gunman was active at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school. It uses the rhythms from chants “Enough is Enough” and “We Call BS”.
“Hindsight” is the seed of this entire project. It is a reaction to a broken system, a system where people feel their votes don’t matter, resulting in a government that they feel doesn’t represent them. “What Can I Do” stems from the rhythm of “Black Lives Matter”. This piece is built around the rigid structure of an 11 note tone row that we then have to navigate within, much like how citizens of a nation need to figure out how to exist within the structures of institutionalized racism and its effects on their psyche and society. Traditionally this compositional technique uses 12 notes, but I left one note out to represent what we are leaving out in how we relate to each other on issues of race.
“Trickle Down” is based on “We Are The 99%” and is a representation of how we are taught to believe that if we work hard we will get what we deserve. Unfortunately, there are many unpleasant factors involved; socio-economic background, race, gender, privilege, debt, luck and more all play an inexorable role.
The album shifts to the topic of the Kavanaugh hearings with “I Believe You” and “Fill The Courts”. “I Believe You” moves through the immense bravery of Dr. Ford coming forward with her story, the hope of her being believed and into the realization that it didn’t change a thing. “Fill The Courts” expresses the unstoppable momentum of the years of setup to fill the courts with conservative justices. The amount of preparation and planning that has gone in to making it possible for the current administration to fill so many vacant court seats is – to Elsa – overwhelming. The video for this track, which will be released in April, is credited to Lisa Russel – a filmmaker for the UN.
The album closes with “We Show Up” – the composer’s anthem of gratitude for everyone who stands up and gets involved in the causes they believe in. “Every time I see anyone take action, stand in line outside their polling location, speak out on behalf of others or change their own ways for the better, it gives me hope. I wanted to end this record with a piece to honor the best in all of us. I truly believe we are not alone in this. We don’t have to agree, but the urge to make the world better is a fundamental human instinct that we need to nurture.”
In recording and playing this music live, it has taken on a life of its own – it now belongs to every listener and audience member. These songs that began with the flutist alone in her practice room have grown, much like the chants have and continue to do so in the streets.
More About the Artist
Swedish/American Flutist, composer and activist Elsa Nilsson has been making music in New York City since 2010. Nilsson is the winner of the National Flute Association 2018 Jazz flute competition and has released three albums as a leader. Nilsson has performed with Robert Dick, Jamie Baum, Jonathan Blake, Sebastian Noelle, Dawn Clement, Jovino Santos Neto and more. Notable performances as a band leader include Blue Note Jazz Club, The 55 Bar, Cornelia Street Cafe, Nefertiti Jazz Club and Aarhus Jazz Festival. She is the founder of Lattice Concert Series, providing daily online concerts to support humanity and community during Covid isolation, the program coordinator for the women in Jazz organizations mentorship program and works with Sierra club to provide outdoor experiences for veterans.
Bam Bam Rodríguez is an award winning bassist and composer, educator and social activist. He has performed with the likes of Arturo O'Farrill, Chucho Valdés, Paquito de Rivera, Deepak Chopra, to name a few, on stages all over the world, including Carnegie Hall, The Barbican, North Sea Jazz Festival, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, Blue Note. Parellelly, Bam is the founder and director of We Are Starting a School, a free educational program that pairs up students from disadvantaged places in the world with teaching artists based in NYC to receive free music lessons.
Born in Santiago de Chile, Rodrigo Recabarren has been living in NYC since 2009. He has worked with artists as Guillermo Klein, Brad Shepik, Melissa Aldana, Camila Meza, Claudia Acuña, Rafal Sarnecki and Andre Carvallo among many others. He has performed in Europe, the United States, Asia and Latin-America in prestigious venues like the Blue Note, 55 bar, Smalls and Jazz at Lincoln Center, among many others. He is the founder of Tresillo music School in Santiago de Chile and has produced dozens of albums and tours around the world.
For for human beings
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Nilsson has a purity of tone, and astonishing facility as a player." Read full review here.
"There’s a churning cadence to the songs on Music for Humans. Melodies are a natural byproduct of this motion; that’s why Elsa Nilsson’s flute sometimes flutters like a butterfly, and sometimes sweeps across the surface like ice ripping through tufts of snow." Read full feature here.
"A technical master, Elsa imbues resonating, percussive lines with profound emotional responses to personal experiences and global issues." Read the full feature here.
NEW YORK MUSIC DAILY
"Count this as one of the best albums of the past several months in any style of music." Read the full review here.