August 4, 2000
MATS GUSTAFSSON/BARRY GUY
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.
Each track has been given Latinate frog names, and moving as quickly as those creatures, Guy and Gustafsson are able to leap from one rhythm to the next and from one mood to another. Along the way the saxophonist trots out a variety of tones from barely there flute breaths to furious slap tonguing on the baritone saxophone, one minute resembling gull squalls and the next the restive sea brushing against the shore. Meantime Guy dances around this, making his bass sound like a cello one minute and a string quartet the next.
Listeners who know the earlier CDs of these musicians will probably know of what they're capable. Those who don't are well advised to check out these sounds.
Track Listing: 1. Bufo punctatus 2. Hyla pickeringii 3. Scaphiopus couchii 4. Lythodytes ricordii 5. Discoglossidae 6. Hyla versicolor 7. Rana clamitans 8. Hyla gratiosa 9. Chrorophilus ocularis
Personnel: Mats Gustafsson (tenor and baritone saxophones, flute, fluteophone, French flageolet); Barry Guy (bass)