Reviews that mention Mats Gustafsson

October 26, 2017

Agustí Fernández

Celebration Ensemble
Fundacja Sluchaj FSR 04/2017

Albert Cirera/Hernâni Fustino/Gabriel Ferrandi/Agustí Fernández

Before the Silence

No Business Records NBCD 96

Having passed the venerable age of 60, Barcelona-area-based pianist Agustí Fernández has been fêted for his prominence on the broadening international improvised music scene. It’s a tribute to his sophisticated musical adroitness that his playing partners now range from Parker (William) to Parker (Evan), without causing a fissure in any situation. Like a director of foreign films who makes the transition to mainstream Hollywood fare, the Catalan pianist has been acclaimed for his adaptability. But like partisan film maker who imports foreign expertise and actors to shore up the local industry, Fernández’s home town concerts often include international partners. Besides confirming his playing and compositional talents, these Fernández discs demonstrate that ideal. MORE

October 21, 2017

Evans/Fernández/Gustafsson

A Quietness of Water
NotTwo MW 952-2

Mats Gustafsson/Alfred Vogel

Blow + Beat

Boomslang BOOM 0491

Transmogrifying poetics onto music is a discriminating task on the same level as creating a painting whose title describes concepts that may not be obvious. But Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson has conspired with his confreres here to use titles inspired by two widely different American poets. The five selections on A Quietness of Water, recorded with American trumpeter Peter Evans and Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández take their inspiration from Robert Creeley (1926-2005), who was associated with The Black Mountain School and who combined an academic career with tough poetics. Like a cultivated rose compared to a wild flower, Blow + Beat, seven duets with Austrian drummer Alfred Vogel, takes as its influence Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997), the quintessential Beat, know as much for his lifestyle as his verse. MORE

October 21, 2017

Mats Gustafsson/Alfred Vogel

Blow + Beat
Boomslang BOOM 0491

Evans/Fernández/Gustafsson

A Quietness of Water

NotTwo MW 952-2

Transmogrifying poetics onto music is a discriminating task on the same level as creating a painting whose title describes concepts that may not be obvious. But Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson has conspired with his confreres here to use titles inspired by two widely different American poets. The five selections on A Quietness of Water, recorded with American trumpeter Peter Evans and Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández take their inspiration from Robert Creeley (1926-2005), who was associated with The Black Mountain School and who combined an academic career with tough poetics. Like a cultivated rose compared to a wild flower, Blow + Beat, seven duets with Austrian drummer Alfred Vogel, takes as its influence Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997), the quintessential Beat, know as much for his lifestyle as his verse. MORE

January 7, 2017

The DKVThing Trio

Collider
NotTwo MW 930-2

Arashi

Semikujira

Trost TR 146

By Ken Waxman

Seemingly more ubiquitous than a smart phone, Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love appears to be everywhere at once, especially when advanced improvised music is involved. Not only does the percussionist lead his own large unit and smaller aggregations, but he also turns up in groups led by players ranging from Frode Gjerstad to Peter Brötzmann. These recent sessions are particularly notable for a couple of reasons. Semikujira is the newest chapter in the history of an on-again/off-again trio made up of Nilssen-Love, Swedish bassist Johan Berthling and veteran Japanese alto saxophonist/clarinetist Akira Sakata. Ratcheting the intensity level up into the red zone, Collider solders together The Thing, the drummer’s punk-jazz trio with Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten with its U.S. counterpoint, the DKV trio of reedist Ken Vandermark, bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Hamid Drake. MORE

November 11, 2016

Mats Gustafsson’ Peace & Fire

At Porgy & Bess
Trost Records TR 140

Keith Rowe/John Tilbury

enough still not to know

SOFA 548

Mopomoso Tour 2013

Making Rooms

Weekertoft 1-4

Barry Guy Blue Shroud Band Small Formations

Tensegrity

NotTwo MW938-2

Something In The Air: Multi-Disc Box Sets Offer Depth As Well As Quantity

By Ken Waxman

When a CD box of improvised music appears it customarily marks a critical occasion. So it is with these recent four-disc sets. One celebrates an anniversary tour by nine of London’s most accomplished improvisers. Another collects small group interactions in Krakow by musicians gathered to perform as an orchestra. A third is a souvenir of concerts celebrating Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s 50th birthday. Finally enough still not to know captures extended improvisations by pianist John Tilbury and table-top guitarist Keith Rowe, who have worked with one another on-and-off for 40 years. MORE

June 6, 2016

Fire!

She Sleeps, She Sleeps
Rune Grammofon RCD 2178

By Ken Waxman

Specializing in blending basement timbres, so all of their gradations are audible, the Swedish trio of drummer Andreas Werliin, double bassist Johan Berthling and saxophonist Mats Gustafsson welcomes a couple of guests here to add additional textures. But the auxiliary tones simply intensify the trio’s characteristically powerful stance.

Cellist Leo Svensson’s intermittent string plucks and swipes are permeable enough so like a youngster mimicking an adult’s movements, he merely strengthens Werliin’s thick power stops. On the other hand Gustafsson’s foundation-shaking bass saxophone gusts not only provide a bonding continuum throughout, but also showcase multiphonics encompassing glossolalia, split tones and concentrated overblowing. Most notably, that ad hoc foursome’s more-than-18½-minute “She Penetrates The Distant Silence Slowly” never plods, but is invested with rhythmic swing, even as it plays out at a tortoise-like gait. MORE

May 22, 2016

Gush

The March
Konvoj Records Kor 005

The Thing

Shake

TROST TTR 005 CD

More than a quarter century after he almost literally blew into public consciousness as a Swedish augmentation of the corybantic Peter Brötzmann-Albert Ayler saxophone tradition, multi-reedman Mats Gustafsson has continued to develop manifold playing styles. Like the comic actor who scores in dramatic parts while retaining a commitment to comedy, Gustafsson bounces from intense, atonal improvisations to other settings where burly rhythm is as much a construct as atonal scrutiny. MORE

May 22, 2016

The Thing

Shake
TROST TTR 005 CD

Gush

The March

Konvoj Records Kor 005

More than a quarter century after he almost literally blew into public consciousness as a Swedish augmentation of the corybantic Peter Brötzmann-Albert Ayler saxophone tradition, multi-reedman Mats Gustafsson has continued to develop manifold playing styles. Like the comic actor who scores in dramatic parts while retaining a commitment to comedy, Gustafsson bounces from intense, atonal improvisations to other settings where burly rhythm is as much a construct as atonal scrutiny. MORE

March 7, 2016

Label Spotlight

Corbett vs. Dempsey
By Ken Waxman

As commerce continues to be divided between mass and class, the music business has followed suit. On one side are the remaining major record companies turning out “product” as cheaply and quickly as they can, and on the other so-called boutique labels whose releases are selected and manufactured with the utmost care. One of the quirkiest of the latter is Corbett vs. Dempsey (CvD), a decade-old Chicago-based imprint that along with a publishing outlet is a division of an art gallery co-owned by John Corbett and Jim Dempsey. CvD has so far put out 25 discs, ranging from reissues of major LPs by Joe McPhee and Peter Brötzmann to obscurities by the likes of George Davis and Staffan Harde to brand-new CDs by Thurston Moore and Mats Gustaffsson. MORE

January 11, 2016

Merzbow/Balás Pándi/Mats Gustafsson/Thurston Moore

Cuts of Guilt, Cut Deeper
RareNoise Records RNRPR 052

Akira Sakata & Jim O'Rourke with Chikamorachi & Merzbow

Flying Basket

Family Vineyard FV88

On of the defining indicators of distinctive 21st Century improvised music is how it`s now being built on more than a Free Jazz or possibly aleatory so-called classical music tropes. Rock rhythms, electronic extensions and the acceptance of so-called noise as ends in themselves often characterize these performances and separate them from earlier avant-garde strategies. These sets, featuring Jazz-identified saxophones, Rock-wedded guitarist and the doming electronic pulses of Japan`s Masami Akita, known as Merzbow are distant example of these concepts. However one allows the noise to dominate the CD’s improvisational character, while the other subordinates the non-Free Jazz elements so that like detailing on an auto with a powerful motor, they complement rather than engulf graceful free music. MORE

April 7, 2015

Label Spotlight

Trost
By Ken Waxman

Vienna’s punk-noise scene of the’90s with underground clubs, fanzines and tape labels did more than advance the career of avant-rock bands. Trost Records was nurtured in that DIY atmosphere so that nearly a quarter-century later it has become a major presence in jazz, releasing discs by the likes of Mats Gustafsson, Peter Brötzmann and Ken Vandermark. This happened because a university student/journalist, working part time at one club, plus a couple of friends, felt the city’s musicians needed more exposure. “There were so many great young bands but basically only two labels in Vienna put out punk hardcore or gothic/rock. No one released weird things, noise, mixed genres,” recalls Konstantin Drobil, Trost’s owner. “But I wanted to put out music that touched me in a certain way, no matter what genre.” MORE

March 18, 2015

Label Spotlight:

Rune Grammofon
By Ken Waxman

Helping to define and preserve sometimes uncategorizable improvised music was one of the goals of Norwegian Rune Kristoffersen when he started his Oslo-based Rune Grammofon (RG) label in 1997. “A new scene was forming with young artists doing exciting music,” he recalls. “But they had nowhere to release the music since the majors weren’t interested.” Kristoffersen decided to fill the gap, and by the end of this year RG will have released 176 sessions that touch on aspects of folk, jazz, ambient, electronic and rock. Artists include Supersilent, Hedvig Mollestad Thomassen’s trio and Mats Gustafsson’s Fire big band, with some popular discs like Supersilent’s repressed many times; and with most of the catalogue still in print. That’s a pretty impressive indication of support for novel Nordic sounds from someone who in the ‘80s released six albums as one-half of the fashionable Norwegian pop duo Fra Lippo Lippi. MORE

March 13, 2015

Mats Gustafsson NU Ensemble

Hidros 6 - Knockin’
Not Two MW 915

Yves Charuest and Ellwood Epps

La Passe

Small Scale Music SM 005

Pierre Yves Martel/Phillippe Lauzier

Sainct Laurens Volume 2

E-tron Records ETRC 019

Barry Guy

Five Fizzles for Samuel Beckett

NoBusiness Records NBEP 2

Something In The Air: Unusual Formats for New Music

By Ken Waxman

Everything old is new again doesn’t go quite far enough in describing formats now available for disseminating music. Not only are downloads and streaming becoming preferred options, but CDs are still being pressed at the same time as musicians experiment with DVDs, vinyl variants and even tape cassettes. Happily the significance of the musical messages outweighs the media multiplicity. MORE

January 16, 2015

Mats Gustafsson

Torturing the Saxophone
Corbett vs, Dempsey CvsDCD012

Jean-Luc Petit

Matière des Souffles

Improvising Beings ib27

Achim Escher

“an W. Lüdi”

veto-records 015

With improvisational freedom now time-honored more than half a century after the sonic parameters of Free Jazz and Free Music were first demarcated, the idea of a solo saxophone disc isn’t as transgressive as it was when Steve Lacy, Anthony Braxton and Evan Parker were initially breaching conventions. However the more liberal climate, at least in certain circles, also means that more reedists – young and old – are challenging themselves in this setting. Each of the discs here deals with a solo wind in a different fashion and each has something to offer. MORE

December 16, 2014

Agustí Fernández/Mats Gustafsson

Constellations
Clamshell CR23

Raymond MacDonald & Marilyn Crispell

Parallel Moments

Babel BDV 13125

Despite their perceptible differences – a Scott and an American recorded in a 2010 concert; a Swede and a Catalan recorded in a studio in 2013 – these superlative saxophone-piano duos have more in common throughout their 10-track CDs than the fact that none of the four players accept Jazz’s contemporary status quo.

For despite Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s reputation as an untamed reed explorer as opposed to Glasgow’s Raymond MacDonald as a more classicist Free stylist, when either plays soprano saxophone here, the results are as sensitive as could be from men whose vocabulary long ago internalized the advances of saxophonist as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Evan Parker and Peter Brötzmann. Elsewhere, Gustafsson is suitably bellicose on baritone; and McDonald more abrasive on alto. The other point of congruence is that while American pianist Marilyn Crispell was first known for her rugged style, which aimed to translate Coltrane’s expanded vibrations to the keyboard, she’s quite subdued at the beginning of her duos on this disc; only become more rigorously experimental and percussive as the recital unrolls. In contrast, Catalan Agustí Fernández, who brings matchless so-called classical technique as well as cooperative strategies from working in larger and smaller ensembles, is the soundboard roughneck here. While the American only tries out preparation on her strings in the CD’s penultimate minute, Fernández’s strings and keys are prepped for musical combat from the first. His strokes, plucks, echoes and thrusts not only demand tough ripostes from Gustafsson, but also sonically introduce electronics insinuations. MORE

March 28, 2014

Fire!

(without noticing)
Rune grammofon RCD 2146

Some years ago, probably tongue in cheek, an astute Jazz critic opined that if teenagers would only realize that playing Free Jazz records would piss their parents off as much as Heavy Metal does, than experimental improvised sounds would become widely popular. With the mass media’s feeble grasp of non-mainstream music that hasn’t happened of course. But if the possibility still exists than Sweden’s Fire is the perfect band to make the breakthrough.

As in many of his other projects with everyone from pianist Sten Sandell to guitarist Thurston Moore, saxophonist Mats Gustafsson has already demonstrated that he has the iron lungs and stamina to blow with the ferocity of any Metal guitarist. During the course of (without noticing)’s seven tracks he does so to the limits of his tenor and baritone saxophones’ range, further congealing the results with thickening patterns produced by organ, electric piano and electronics. Most of the pieces are propelled along rhythmically by the sluicing bass line of Johan Berthling who furthermore introduces so-called effects and piano chording to the nearly opaque narratives. Added to the weighty interface is the thumping backbeat of drummer Andreas Werliin, whose day job is as one-half of experimental pop duo, Wildbirds & Peacedrums. MORE

October 7, 2013

Erik Carlsson & All Stars

Swedish azz Volume 1 & Volume 2
NotTwo MW 901-1A/ NotTwo MW 901-1B

Various Artists

Just Not Cricket: Three Days of Improvised Music in Berlin

Ni-Vu-Ni-Connu nvnc lp001/004

Thomas Lehn, Michel F. Côté, Éric Normand

Invisible

Tour de Bras DL #1

Malcolm Goldstein/Thomas Lehn

Sources

Tour de Bras DL #2

Something In the Air: Good Music Comes In Many Forms and Formats

By Ken Waxman

Standardization is a thing of the past when it comes to recorded music and listeners who get too far ahead of or behind the curve are likely to miss interesting sounds. Just as the production of movies didn’t cease with the acceptance of television, so the manufacture of LPs continued even as the CD became the format of the moment. As artisans continue to craft fine furniture despite the availability of mass-produced items, so too LPs are being created in limited quantities. This situation appears tailor-made for experimental sounds. Similarly since advanced players are often as impecunious as they are inventive, the ubiquity of the Internet means that some music is only sold through the Web. The option of not having to create a physical product is a boon for non-mainstream performers. MORE

September 9, 2013

On DVD

Concert for Fukushima Wels 2011
Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet (PanRec/Trost Records)

By Ken Waxman
Passion is an adjective often associated with German sax avatar Peter Brötzmann, especially as on this DVD, you can see as well as hear the efforts that go into producing his gut-busting sounds. Concert for Fukushima Wels 2011 is a valuable addition to the saxophonist’s cannon for not only focusing on the passion behind his playing and that of the other musicians featured in this 75-minute live concert from an Austrian festival. The DVD also highlights Brötzmann’s compassion as well. Always politically engaged the Wuppertal-based reedist asked four Japanese innovators to play with the Chicago Tentet that night with all proceeds from the gigs going to two organizations aiding the victims of the then recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami. MORE

June 18, 2013

Fire! Orchestra

Exit!
Rune Grammofon RDCD 2138

Lean Left

Live at Café Oto

Unsounds 32U

Double Tandem

Cement

PNL Records PNL 013

The Resonance Ensemble

What Country is This?

NotTwo MW 885-2

Something in The Air: Modern Rhythms and New Jazz

By Ken Waxman

As the rhythmic base of jazz has changed over the past half century, adding emphases besides pure swing to improvisation, the role of the percussionist has changed as well. No longer just a time keeper the modern drummer must be conversant with varied beats from many genres of music. This familiarity with other cultures is also why many non-Americans have become prominent. Case in point is Norwegian percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, who plays with the Euro-American band Lean Left band at the Tranzac on June 15. Nilssen-Love, whose associates range from the most committed electronics dial-twister to free-form veterans is equally proficient laying down a hard rock-like beat as he is trading accents with experimental timbre-shatters. The two extended tracks on Live at Café Oto Unsounds 32U demonstrate not only Nilssen-Love’s cohesive skills amplifying the improvisations of Chicago-based tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark as he does in many other contexts, but shows how both react to the power chords and violent string distortions which characterize the style of guitarists Andy Moor and Terrie Ex from Dutch punk band The Ex, who complete this quartet. In spite of Vandermark’s consistent overblowing which encompasses pumping altissimo honks and frenetic slurs; plus the guitarists’ constant crunches, smashes and frails, the drumming never degenerate into monotonous rock music-like banging. Instead, while the backbeat isn’t neglected, auxiliary clips, ruffs, ratamacues and smacks are used by Nilssen-Love to break up the rhythm, with carefully measured pulsations. This strategy is most obvious during the climatic sections of the more-than-37 minute Drevel. With all four Lean Lefters improvising in broken octaves, the narratives shakes to and fro between Vandermark’s collection of emphasized freak notes and dyspeptic stridency and the dual guitarists’ slurred fingering that leads to staccato twangs and jangling strums. Not only is the climax attained with a crescendo of volume and excitement, but the final theme variations are in contrast as stark and minimalist as the earlier ones are noisy. As guitars methodically clank as if reading a post-modern composition, and the clarinet lines emphasize atonal reed bites, intermittent stick strokes and toe-pedal pressure from the drummer concentrates the sound shards into the track’s calm finale. MORE

June 13, 2013

Festival Report:

Ulrichsberger Kaleidophon
By Ken Waxman

Metaphorically and literally the 2013 edition of the Ulrichsberger Kaldeidophon moved further afield than usual for a festival that has taken place annually at the Jazzatelier in this Austrian alpine village of 3,000 inhabitants near Linz. Not only were improvisers from the UK, US, Eastern and Western Europe represented, but for the first time, a concert for clavichord by Japan’s Makiko Nishikaze took place in a restored 14th Century church in Glöckelberg/Zvonkonva, about 10 kilometres away in the Czech Republic. MORE

May 1, 2013

Mats Gustafsson/John Russell/Raymond Strid

Birds
Den 008

Natalio Sued/Gerri Jaeger/Rafael Vanoli

Opistor

Trytone TT559-046

Vinz Vonlanthen/Christophe Berthet/Cyril Bond

Silo

Leo Records CD LR 638

How to come up with a group sound that’s expansive yet compact is a challenge for committed musicians, especially when economics enter the picture. Stand-alone trios are pretty much a universal solution, especially when dealing with the financial vagaries of playing experimental music. Extra-musical considerations aside, the obvious reason the trios here use this combination of reeds, guitar and percussion is that it provides each with the necessary textures for a full program. That said none of the bands and CDs could be remotely confused with any other. MORE

March 10, 2013

Colin Stetson & Mats Gustafsson

Stones
Rue Grammofon RCD 2136 CD

Max Nagl

In Memory of Lol Coxhill

Rude Noises 021

Vladimir Tarasov/Garth Powell

Etudes

SoLyd SLR 0414

Hot and Cold

Hogwild Manifesto

Jungulous 003

Something In The Air: Identical Instruments: Different Sounds

By Ken Waxman

Demonstrating that accepted musical customs are often shibboleths – the equivalent of not wearing white after Labour Day – contemporary improvisers frequently express themselves unconventionally – even when it comes to instrumental choices. Take for example the fine duo sessions here. Unaccompanied by others, the players prove that there are enough textures available from nearly identical instruments to create full sound pictures. These sets show not only how much can be done with two guitars – a common combination – but also by two percussion sets, not to mention two saxophones of similar ranges and timbres. MORE

February 12, 2013

Sonore

Café Oto/London
Trost TR 108

Hairybones

SnakeLust

Clean Feed 252CD

Peter Brötzmann

Solo +Trio Roma

Victo cd 122/123

Moriyama/Satoh/Brötzmann

Yatagarasu

NotTwo MW 894-2

Something In The Air: Peter Brötzmann’s Triumphant Seventh Decade

By Ken Waxman

Although the witticism that “free jazz keeps you young” has been repeated so often that’s it’s taken on cliché status, there’s enough evidence to give the statement veracity. Many improvisers in their eighties and seventies are still playing with the fire of performers in their twenties. Take German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, who celebrated his 70th birthday and nearly 50 years of recording a couple of years ago. Case in point is Solo +Trio Roma Victo cd 122/123, recorded at 2011’s Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville (FIMAV) in Quebec. Not only does Brötzmann play with unabated intensity for almost 75 minutes, while fronting a bassist and a drummer about half his age on one CD; but on the other inventively plays unaccompanied, without a break, for another hour or so. The multi-reedist still blows with the same caterwauling intensity that characterized Machine Gun, 1968’s Free Jazz classic, plus a balladic sensitivity now spells his go-for-broke expositions. Solo, his overview is relentlessly linear mixing extended staccato cadenzas with passages of sweet romance that momentarily slow the narrative. Climatically the nearly 25-minute Frames of Motion is a pitch-sliding explosion of irregular textures and harsh glissandi that seems thick as stone, yet is malleable enough to squeeze the slightest nuance out of every tune. Slyly, Brötzmann concludes the piece with gargling split tones that gradually amalgamate into I Surrender Dear. Backed by Norwegian percussion Paal Nilssen-Love and Italian electric bassist Massimo Pupillo, Brötzmann adds lip-curling intensity and multiphonic glissandi to the other program. Centrepiece is Music Marries Room to Room that continues for more than 69½ minutes. Besides wounded bull-like cries tempered with spitting glissandi from the saxophonist, the piece includes jet-engine-like drones from the Pupillo as well as shattering ruffs and pounding shuffles from the drummer. Several times, just as it seems the playing can’t get any more ardent, it kicks up another notch. Indefatigable, the saxophonist spins out staccato screams and emphasized renal snorts in equal measures, with his stentorian output encompassing tongue slaps, tongue stops and flutter tonguing. Brief solos showcase Pupillo crunching shards of electronic friction with buzz-saw intensity, while Nilssen-Love exposes drags, paradiddles, rebounds, and smacks, without slowing the beat. There are even lyrical interludes among the overblowing as Brötzmann occasionally brings the proceedings to a halt for a capella sequences, which suggest everything from Taps to Better Git It in your Soul. Finally the broken-octave narrative reaches a point of no-return to wrap up in a circular fashion with yelping reed cries, blunt percussion smacks and dense electronic buzzes. Rapturous applause from the audience spurs the three to go at it again at the same elevated concentration for an additional five minutes. MORE

January 11, 2013

Artist Feature

Agustí Fernández
By Ken Waxman

A complete pianist in every sense of the word who blends exquisite technique with innovative inspiration, Agustí Fernández is arguably Spain’s most accomplished contemporary improviser. This month he’s playing four nights in different configurations at the Stone, a rare series of American dates. “I like all kind of combinations, from duo to big ensembles because each one presents different challenges for a player,” he explains. “Listening, language, instruments, techniques, sound, volume, interplay, etc. will be different in every setting.” MORE

August 27, 2012

The Thing with Barry Guy

Metal!
No Business Records NBLP 47/48

With the Scandinavian trio The Thing having set itself up as improvised music’s version of the Rock power trio – albeit with a saxophone instead of a lead guitar – it’s instructive to note how well senior improvisers operate when entering into the band’s self-defined context.

Having established a mutually satisfying interchange with American saxophonist/trumpeter Joe McPhee, The Thing now uses this two-LP set to showcase the adaptations of British bassist Barry Guy to their sound. Guy, who founded the London Jazz Composer’s Orchestra in the 1970s, and is known for his collaborations with most top-rank European improvisers including tenor saxophonist Evan Parker, was involved in Free playing from around the time the Thing members were born. Since the early 1990s however, Swedish saxophonist and Thing member Mats Gustafsson has been playing with Guy in larger or smaller ensembles. Meanwhile on their own the other Thingers – Norwegians, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love – have racked up a history of affiliations with a cross-section of committed improvisers ranging from saxophonist Peter Brötzmann to guitarist Raoul Björkenheim. MORE

May 11, 2012

Paal Nilssen-Love, Mesele Asmamaw, Mats Gustafsson

Baro 101
Terp Records AIS-19

David Sait

History Ship

Apprise Records AP-05

Rudresh Mahanthappa

Samdhi

ACT Music ACT 9513-2

Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers Ensemble

Inana

PI Pi41

Something in the Air: Provocative Ethnic Blends

By Ken Waxman

Product of musical miscegenation, jazz has always been most welcome to sound influences. Meanwhile much of so-called ethnic music, especially from non-Western countries, features some variants of improvisation. Blending the freedom of jazz with aleatory additions from other cultures produces provocative sounds as these CDs attest. Yet all are noteworthy because, rather than using either music as mere exotica or rhythmic overlay, each is performed with the same respect. MORE

May 6, 2012

Label Spotlight:

Maya Recordings
By Ken Waxman

As much as anything else, the birth of Maya Recordings, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, was born from impatience. Swiss violinist Maya Homburger, who operates the boutique label with her husband, British bassist/composer Barry Guy, recalls that since at that time another label was slow in putting out Arcus, a recording by Guy and bassist Barre Phillips, they decided to do so themselves. By 2012 29 Maya CDs have been released, improvised as well as baroque music.

The two were already veteran musician when Maya was created. Zürich-born Homburger, for instance, has worked with ensembles such as Trio Virtuoso and Camerata Kilkenny; while London-born Guy is part of many free jazz aggregations and is the founder/artistic director of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LCJO). Maya was envisioned as a different sort of imprint, Homburger recalls. “We wanted to create a label where music, cover art and writing were all related and on the highest level. We wanted to have control over the look as well as the sound.” MORE

July 7, 2011

Evans/Fernández/Gustafsson

Kopros Lithos
Multikulti Project MP 1013

Augustí Fernández/Barry Guy/Ramón López

Morning Glory

Maya Records MCD 1001

Joe Morris/Agustí Fernández

Ambrosia

Riti CD11

Agustí Fernández & Joan Saura

Vents

psi 11.01

By Ken Waxman

Over the past 15 years Catalan pianist Augustí Fernández has become the most celebrated pianist – if not complete improviser – from his part of the world. In many ways he’s the successor to pianist Tete Montoliu (1933-1997). But while Montoliu was a bopper, Fernández doesn’t limit himself to one style, as this quatrtet of memorable discs makes evident. MORE

May 11, 2011

Gord Grdina Trio

Barrel Fire
Drip Audio DA00651

Isaiah Ceccarelli

Bréviare d'epuisements

Ambiances Magnétiques AM 199 CD

Wolter Wierbos

Deining

Dolfijn Records DolFinj 02

Axel Dörner/Diego Chamy

Super Axel Dörner

Absinth Records 018

Something in the Air:

Dutch Improvisers and Friends in Toronto

By Ken Waxman

Accommodating and adaptable improvising musicians from the Netherlands are as open to out-of-country influences as working with players from different countries in Holland or abroad. Confident in their own skills, they see non-local musicians’ participation as additions to their music, not competition. These beliefs characterize two ostensibly Dutch ensembles in concert in Toronto this month: The Ex with Brass Unbound is presented by the Music Gallery at Lee’s Palace on May 18; while Ig Henneman’s Kindred Spirits Sextet at Gallery 345 May 19. Violist Henneman’s combo includes two Canadians, pianist Marilyn Lerner and clarinettist Lori Freedman plus German trumpeter Axel Dörner. Meanwhile the Brass Unbound, working with the guitar-heavy, Dutch anarchistic punk-jazzers The Ex, is made up of Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, American saxophonist Ken Vandermark and Dutch trombonist Wolter Wierbos. A careful listen to some of these players own CDs demonstrates the sort of adaptability that characterizes these Dutch-centred combos in general. MORE

January 13, 2011

Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher

Quartet
BBBCD 12 & 13

How can a trio be a quartet? That Dadaist query is more serious than is initially evident. For adding another musician to a long-established triangular entity, doesn’t necessarily result in a quartet sound if the thought processes don’t mesh. However Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher here craftily avoids the phenomenon of merely creating music for three plus one. Using pieces from pianist Michel Braam’s “Q Book” as a basis, the three integrate guests’ sounds into their longstanding connection. MORE

December 9, 2010

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet +1

3 Nights in Oslo
Smalltown Superjazz STSJ197CD

Anthony Braxton/Gerry Hemingway

Old Dogs (2007)

Mode Avant 9/12

Sun Ra

The Heliocentric Worlds

ESP-Disk 4062

Rivière Composers’ Pool

Summer Works 2009

Emanem 5301

Something in the Air

By Ken Waxman

Boxed sets of recorded music have long been a holiday gift. But sophisticated music fans won’t settle for slapped together “best of” collections. Boxes such as these, collecting multiple CDs for specific reasons, should impress any aware listener. MORE

October 6, 2010

Festival Météo, Mulhouse, France

August 24 to August 28
By Ken Waxman

Proving that varieties of improvised music can sound as different as the personalities of those who play it, the annual Météo festival offered a cornucopia of noteworthy sounds from the bombastic to the barely audible, solo or in groups.

Venues in this Upper Rhine French city, located 30 kilometres northwest of Basel, Switzerland, also reflected this sonic diversity. Performances take place in the hushed surroundings of a 12th Century chapel downtown, and on the city’s outskirts, a capacious night club usually used for rock shows; and, new this year, within the expanses of an abandoned 1930s’ thread manufacturing factory. MORE

March 28, 2009

Jazz Brugge

Brugge, Belgium
October 2-October 5, 2008

Pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach’s German quartet rolled through a set of Thelonious Monk compositions; Sardinians, saxophonist Sandro Satta and keyboardist Antonello Salis liberally quoted Charles Mingus lines during their incendiary set; Berlin-based pianist Aki Takase and saxophonist Silke Eberhard recast Ornette Coleman’s tunes; and the French Trio de Clarinettes ended its set with harmonies reminiscent of Duke Ellington’s writing for his reed section.

All these sounds and many more were highlighted during the fourth edition of Jazz Brugge, which takes place every second year in this tourist-favored Belgium city, about 88 kilometres from Brussels. But sonic homage and musical interpolations were only notable when part of a broader interpretation of improvised music. Other players in this four-day festival came from Italy, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Poland and Belgium. With strains of rock, New music and folklore informing the jazz presented at the festival’s three sonically impressive venues, music at the most notable concerts was completely unique or added to the tradition. The less-than-memorable sets were mired in past achievements or unworkable formulae MORE

February 13, 2009

RPM

Rød Planet
ILK Records 137 CD/IDCD0033

Mats Gustafsson

The Vilnius Explosion

No Business Records NBCD 1

With a profile so low on the international jazz scene that any knowledge of the country’s improvised music usually begins and ends with the now-defunct Ganelin Trio, Lithuania actually has its share of boundary-expanding musicians.

Not only is this truism demonstrated on these two significant CDs, but the sessions also show that Lithuanian improvisers are advancing by forging alliances with their Scandinavian neighbors. For example, although Swedish baritone saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s name is most prominent on the cover, The Vilnius Explosion is in actuality a full-fledged group experience, with the reedist integrated into an ensemble of four Lithuanian natives – drummers Akadijus Gotesmanas and Marijus Aleska, bassist Eugenijus Kanevičus and saxophonist/clarinetist Liudas Mockŭnas. Mockŭnas also makes up one third – and one letter – of the RPM band, which recorded Rød Planet. His partners are both Danes, laptopist Jakob Riis and drummer Stefan Pasborg. MORE

February 13, 2009

Mats Gustafsson

The Vilnius Explosion
No Business Records NBCD 1

RPM

Rød Planet

ILK Records 137 CD/IDCD0033

With a profile so low on the international jazz scene that any knowledge of the country’s improvised music usually begins and ends with the now-defunct Ganelin Trio, Lithuania actually has its share of boundary-expanding musicians.

Not only is this truism demonstrated on these two significant CDs, but the sessions also show that Lithuanian improvisers are advancing by forging alliances with their Scandinavian neighbors. For example, although Swedish baritone saxophonist Mats Gustafsson’s name is most prominent on the cover, The Vilnius Explosion is in actuality a full-fledged group experience, with the reedist integrated into an ensemble of four Lithuanian natives – drummers Akadijus Gotesmanas and Marijus Aleska, bassist Eugenijus Kanevičus and saxophonist/clarinetist Liudas Mockŭnas. Mockŭnas also makes up one third – and one letter – of the RPM band, which recorded Rød Planet. His partners are both Danes, laptopist Jakob Riis and drummer Stefan Pasborg. MORE

October 8, 2008

Variations on a Theme

Guelph Jazz Festival Musicians On Their Own
Extended Play

Barry Guy/Mats Gustafsson/Raymond Strid

Tarfala

Maya MCD0801

Junk Box

Cloudy Then Sunny

Libra Records 203-019

John Zorn

News For Lulu

hatOLOGY 650

Matana Roberts

The Chicago Project

Central Control CC1006PR

Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet

Tabligh

Cuneiform Rune 270

AMMÜ Quartet

AMMÜ Quartet
MORE

February 19, 2008

MAWJA

Studio One
Al Maslakh Recordings MSLKH 07

MAWJA

“Live One”

Chloë 008

Various Artists

Beirut-Ystad

Olof Bright Editions OBCD 16-17

Tom Chant/Sharif Sehnaoui

Cloister

Al Maslakh Recordings MSLKH 05

Despite the political instability and sectarian violence that continues to disrupt the country, improbably enough the nascent Lebanese Free Music movement seems to progress from strength to strength.

Not only does Beirut’s annual festival of improvised music attract major Free Music stylists from overseas, but Lebanese improvisers are starting to travel and make an impression elsewhere. This situation is reflected in this set of impressive CDs. Just as importantly, it also confirms the universality of improvisation. Reductionist and electro-acoustic, the results heard from the locals are no more stereotypical Middle Eastern than others’ improvisations reflect Continental Europe or the United States. MORE

February 19, 2008

Various Artists

Beirut-Ystad
Olof Bright Editions OBCD 16-17

MAWJA

Studio One

Al Maslakh Recordings MSLKH 07

MAWJA

“Live One”

Chloë 008

Tom Chant/Sharif Sehnaoui

Cloister

Al Maslakh Recordings MSLKH 05

Despite the political instability and sectarian violence that continues to disrupt the country, improbably enough the nascent Lebanese Free Music movement seems to progress from strength to strength.

Not only does Beirut’s annual festival of improvised music attract major Free Music stylists from overseas, but Lebanese improvisers are starting to travel and make an impression elsewhere. This situation is reflected in this set of impressive CDs. Just as importantly, it also confirms the universality of improvisation. Reductionist and electro-acoustic, the results heard from the locals are no more stereotypical Middle Eastern than others’ improvisations reflect Continental Europe or the United States. MORE

February 19, 2008

MAWJA

“Live One”
Chloë 008

MAWJA

Studio One

Al Maslakh Recordings MSLKH 07

Various Artists

Beirut-Ystad

Olof Bright Editions OBCD 16-17

Tom Chant/Sharif Sehnaoui

Cloister

Al Maslakh Recordings MSLKH 05

Despite the political instability and sectarian violence that continues to disrupt the country, improbably enough the nascent Lebanese Free Music movement seems to progress from strength to strength.

Not only does Beirut’s annual festival of improvised music attract major Free Music stylists from overseas, but Lebanese improvisers are starting to travel and make an impression elsewhere. This situation is reflected in this set of impressive CDs. Just as importantly, it also confirms the universality of improvisation. Reductionist and electro-acoustic, the results heard from the locals are no more stereotypical Middle Eastern than others’ improvisations reflect Continental Europe or the United States. MORE

December 4, 2007

Torden Kvartetten

13 EFGHL
Ninth World Music NWM 035 CD

By Ken Waxman

More profondo than basso, the 13 tracks on this CD plumb the contrapuntal and polyrhythmic tones available from low-pitched instruments. But significantly, 13 EFGHL is concerned with more than that, since the musicians involved – baritone saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and tubaist Per-Âke Holmlander from Sweden and electric bassist Peter Friis Nielsen and percussionist Peter Ole Jørgensen from Denmark – go further than wallow in mineshaft-deep pitches.

In the lineage of extroverted reedists like Albert Ayler and Peter Brötzmann, Gustafsson consistently plays altissimo for full expression of his tongue-slapping, multiphonic screams and metal-rattling timbres. His harsh, stuttering solos contain what could be wounded vulture cries as well as the occasional subterranean rumbles. Most of the low tones are left to Holmlander, whose burping extrusions coupled with Friis Nielsen’s palm-tapping string beats produce a steadying, adagio ostinato. Freed from time-keeping, Ole Jørgensen – who with the bassist has backed-up Brötzmann – further lightens the sound with bell-pealing cymbal shimmers, focused bass drum whacks and pitter-pattering press rolls. MORE

February 27, 2006

Agustí Fernández & Mats Gustafsson

Critical Mass
psi

Agustí Fernández
Camallera
G3 Records/Sirulita

Agustí Fernández Quartet
Lonely Woman
Taller de Músics/Sirulita

By Ken Waxman
February 27, 2006

Without trying to propose a rigid maxim, it’s evident that much of the best improvised music has come from individuals whose ethnic group was or is removed from the mainstream.

Jazz, of course, was invented by oppressed African Americans, and since that time its most accomplished practitioners have usually been players from Black, Jewish, Italian or other minority backgrounds. The situation is a little more muddled in Europe, but interestingly enough the first universally acknowledged non-American jazzer was a Roma, guitarist Django Reinhardt. While setting up a hierarchy of victimology is silly, it’s instructive to consider, for example, that the two most acclaimed Spanish pianists are Catalan, not majority Spaniards. Tete Montoliu (1933-1997) was a masterful pop-bopper as his many sessions with American sidemen attest; while today, Barcelona-resident Agustí Fernández is similarly accepted in so-called avant-garde jazz circles. MORE

February 20, 2006

ZU/MATS GUSTAFFSON

How to Raise an Ox
Atavistic ALP 168 CD

Fancifully the product of some rough trade miscegenation between The Clash at their punkiest and 1940s R&B-jazz baritone saxophonist Leo “Mad Lad” Parker, the Italian post-rock trio Zu makes common cause with macho Swedish jazzer Mats Gustafsson on this CD. In sheer electric-fuelled power alone, the four could probably blow away the massed Stan Kenton, Maynard Ferguson and Buddy Rich bands – none of which were particularly known for their subtlety.

An antidote to the effete minimalism and microtonalism that affects many European Free Jazzers, HOW TO RAISE AN OX is raunchy improv of the highest order featuring uncomplicated song titles that would gladden the heart of any Death Metal fan and enough pulverizing riffs to make the CD a close cousin to grind core excesses. MORE

January 2, 2006

PETER BRÖTZMANN CHICAGO TENTET

Be Music, Night
OkkaDisk OD 12059

This CD may ruin saxophonist Peter Brötzmann’s long-held reputation as the ferocious, hard-hearted wild man of Free Jazz.

For the entire hour-plus CD by the German reedman’s mostly Chicago-based band is designed as homage to American poet Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972). Additionally, the longest – more than 42 minutes – of the three tracks features mellifluous-voiced Welsh poet Mike Pearson integrated into the ensemble reading selections from Patchen’s work that are, for all intents and purposes, love poems. MORE

November 7, 2005

GUSH

Norrköping
Atavistic ALP 161CD

After more than 17 years together, the members of the Swedish-based GUSH now operates as three interlocking parts of one perpetual motion machine.

Occupied enough with other projects, the three – reedist Mats Gustafsson, pianist Sten Sandell and drummer Raymond Strid – bring a complementary desire for melded invention when they unite, as they did in Norrköping in 2003, for this, the band’s first-ever domestic release in North America.

Fully in command of all elements of its instruments, the trio elaborates its thoughts over the course of three long selections of almost 19 minutes, more than 13½ minutes and more than 26½ minutes each. Best known of the three is now Gustafsson, who plays soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones and fluteophone, alto fluteophone and French flageolet here. Veteran of large groups led by German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and British bassist Barry Guy, as well as smaller bands with American saxophonists Joe McPhee and Ken Vandermark, Gustafsson is as easily at home in the United States as Europe. Inventive timekeeper Strid also works in Guy’s large groups as well as smaller bands. Sandell, not only improvises with Scandinavian players like saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist, but as a graduate of Stockholm’s Academy of Music nurtures a fascination for electro-acoustic and contemporary so-called serious music. MORE

September 12, 2005

Barry Guy New Orchestra

Oort – Entropy
Intakt

Maya Homburger & Barry Guy with Pierre Favre
Dakryon
Maya

By Ken Waxman
September 11, 2005

Established as one of FreeImprov’s most accomplished composer/bandleaders as well as a major improvising double bassist, Barry Guy continues to extend his musical range.

Having slimmed down his main compositional tool, the 17-piece London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) to the more compact 10 piece, all-star Barry Guy New Orchestra (BGO), Oort – Entropy shows how the group reconstitutes specific sounds. The idea is to expand musical elements initially conceived for Guy’s trio with American pianist Marilyn Crispell and British drummer Paul Lytton. MORE

December 6, 2004

PETER BRÖTZMANN CHICAGO TENTET

Signs
Okkadisk OD 12048

MS4
PETER BRÖTZMANN CHICAGO TENTET
Images
Okkadisk OD 12047

More than five years after it was first organized, German reedist Peter Brötzmann’s mostly Chicago-populated Tentet has become a welcomed presence on the international improv scene.

In the tradition of the Globe Unity Orchestra -- of which Brötzmann was also a member -- the reed-heavy band plays long, involved compositions more concerned with spur of the moment interpretation than elaborate arrangements. Yet, as this matched set of live and studio material demonstrates, the 10-piece band actually sounds best when organized patterns and section work are added to the massed firepower. MORE

November 15, 2004

JOHN BUTCHER/GINO ROBAIR

New Oakland Burr
Ratascan BRD 051

PAAL NILSSEN LOVE/MATS GUSTAFSSON
I Love It When You Snore
Smalltown Supersound STS 063 CD

Stripping down to essentials, intrepid improvisers find solos and duos present unvarnished sounds with the fewest possible obstructions.

Especially popular are discs that match a single reedist with a single percussionist to see what sparks fly. Participants in these two short CDs recorded around the same time have frequently been involved in similar situations. While all four have the scope to display outstanding, extended techniques, nowhere is there a feeling that these aren’t just new notches in the players’ belt. They may be impressive to newbies, but they’re not near any of the player’s highest standard. MORE

June 3, 2003

DAVID GRUBBS & MATS GUSTAFSSON

Off-Road
Blue Chopsticks BC 11

KEITH ROWE/MICHEL DONEDA/URS LEIMGRUBER The Difference Between a Fish
Potlatch P302

Differences between noise and resonance, silence and stillness are explored on these recent examples of EuroImprov. Coming from either side of the quiet/discord continuum, the CDs manage to prove that each auditory position is as legitimate as the other. It just depends how the sound atoms are manipulated.

On OFF-ROAD Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson, a master of the post-Ayler shrieks hooks up with American post-rock instrumentalist David Grubbs and -- on three tracks -- countryman turntablist Henry Moore Selder to produce noise essays bisected with quiet paragraphs. THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A FISH showcases degrees of stillness and freak intonation produced by British guitar and electronics manipulator Keith Rowe, French soprano saxophonist Michel Doneda and Swiss-born, Paris-domiciled Urs Leimgruber on soprano and tenor saxophones MORE

September 2, 2002

AALY TRIO/DKV TRIO

Double or Nothing
Okka Disc OD 12035

SCHOOL DAYS
In Our Time
Okka Disc OD 12041

SPACEWAYS INCORPORATED
Version Soul
Atavistic ALP 130 CD

Eventually Ken Vandermark is going to have to stop wearing his emotions --and influences -- on his sleeve and CD booklet.

Now that the Chicago-based reedman has established himself nationally and internationally as an extender and interpreter of free music, aren’t the dedications he appends to each of his original compositions getting to be a bit redundant? MORE

June 7, 2002

PETER BRÖTZMANN TENTET PLUS TWO

Short Visit To Nowhere
Okka Disk OD 12043

PETER BRÖTZMANN TENTET PLUS TWO
Broken English
Okka Disk OD 12044

Three years after it was first organized and a year after it first toured, Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet (Plus Two in this case) displays, in these 2000 recordings, that it has become an exemplary example of how to adopt free improv to large aggregations.

With a mixed cast of seven Chicagoans, three members from New York state, a Swede and Brötzmann, a German, it has all the firepower of a traditional big band with its eight horns. Plus, the three-man string section and two percussionists ensure that not only is its bottom covered -- so to speak -- but that the strings can alternately meld with the horns or shore up the rhythm section. Also, while the German reedman wrote two of the compositions, he’s democratic enough to make room for one piece each by Chicago multi-woodwind player Ken Vandermark, Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson and Chicago cellist/violinist Fred Lonberg-Holm. MORE

October 4, 2000

MATS GUSTAFSSON

Windows: The Music Of Steve Lacy
Blue Chopsticks 4

As the recorded tributes to Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane edge into the triple digits, with Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk appreciations running close behind, it's good to see a different jazzman being honored.

Considering the person is saxophonist Steve Lacy, who has been a spiky iconoclast for most of his almost 50 year career, and the honorer is another exploratory saxophonist, the appeal of this session mounts. Burnishing the salute, Gustafsson is resourceful enough to offer this solo tribute playing different horns then Lacy's signature soprano saxophone and to let loose on his own, as well as Lacy compositions.

MORE

August 4, 2000

MATS GUSTAFSSON/BARRY GUY

Frogging
Maya MCD 9702

As the economics of real jazz and improvised music continue to sag, a legion of trios and duos have become the preferred form for those who would have played in larger groups a few years ago. The trouble is that few of these mini-combos work as well as the one here because their conception is essentially reductive rather than augmentative. Conversely, experienced improvisers like Gustafsson and Guy don't see this grouping as playing without a drummer or pianist, but as adding together two separate sets of sounds to create a unified whole. There's so much going on here at all times from strings, tongues, throats, bows, fingers, wood, hands, mouthpieces, reeds, mouths and yards of tubing that the sophisticated listener certainly won't miss the phantom members of the combo. The two can also play this way, because they had worked together in similar situations for at least five years prior to this recording. Veteran Briton Guy has performed in every sort of gathering from the London Jazz Composers Orchestra -- which he leads -- to duos with the likes of Evan Parker. Gustafsson, a Swede, may be a few years younger, but that hasn't stopped him from joining up with manifold European and North America sonic explorers in bands of every size and shape. With an arsenal of five horns he also has enough ammunition to take on Guy, who often creates enough string sounds for another five people.

MORE

June 17, 2000

PETER BRÖTZMANN

Stone/Water
Okka Disk OD 12032

Peter Brötzmann is no stranger to bombast.

The German multi-reedist first goose-stepped his way into world jazz consciousness in 1968 with MACHINE GUN on FMP. From its first extended blats of pure noise emanating from a (very) mixed platoon of Dutch, Flemish, British and German improvisers, it gave lusty notice that Continental jazzers had to be judged on their own merits rather than in comparison to North American musicians.

Over the years, except for the odd one/off project, economic necessity has forced Brötzmann to work with smaller bands -- usually trios and quartets and some commentators have even posited that the wildman has mellowed.

MORE