Mats Gustafsson & Jason Adasiewicz

Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD043

This duet session could literally have been marketed with one of those platitudinous 20th Century titles such as Another Side of Mats Gustafsson. Yet while this languid CD confirms that the Swedish saxophonist actually has a softer side and doesn’t have to stud all his improvisations with strident, astringent tones at a frenetic pace, this is no ballad album. For while Gustafsson and Chicago vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz may detail these seven tracks with a phlegmatic indolence they don’t relax the rigor they bring to more spirited sessions.

The two, who have also both played with German avant-gardist Peter Brötzmann – who too has a rarely shown romantic side – make paramount use of the warming characteristic of reverb from the vibe’s motor-drive, which when slowed down creates comforting echoes. These vibrations moderate Gustafsson sometimes fierce reed whines, so that the results become fluid sequences of double counterpoint. Instances of how the saxophonist’s overblowing, which threatens to overrun every space with magnified bluster, is trimmed down to single reed bites exist on tracks such as “See Them Cold, But See Them Last” and “Memory Is a Voice”. At the same time Adasiewicz is able to power-lift the program alongside the saxophonist as during “A Fall They Call It”. A swift, hardened balafon demonstration, each of his ringing tones is taken to its pitch extremes, causing Gustafsson to match them with buzzing glissandi, then surging to screaming glossolalia. Still the underlying pulse on both, keeps the pieces from detonating into formlessness.

All this doesn’t mean that the saxophonist’s extemporizing power has been neutered however. In fact during the CD’s one misfire, an overlong, concluding version of John Abercrombie’s title tune – Gustafsson, Adasiewicz or both together created all the others tracks – you can almost sense Gustafsson buckling under the necessity to maintain an icy languid tone. Mid-way through, holding back becomes too much and he begins yelping, fracturing his tones and irregularly vibrating.

In a way this eruption breaks with convention, confirms the viability of this unique album, as well as the fact that the hell-raising reed playing of Gustafsson is still fully intact.

—Ken Waxman

Call It 5. Memory Is A Voice 6. Valerie 7. Timeless

Personnel: Mats Gustafsson (alto, tenor and baritone saxophones) and Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone, balafon)