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- Bengt by Mats Gustafsson
8/10 Li'l Biz Staff review, 16 May 2012
In a nod to Bengt Nordstrom (1936-2000) Mats Gustafsson drops a solo record of 'spontaneous composition' (also known as improvising - don't know why it needs two names) with only his trusty Grafton saxophone and a head full of mad ideas and perplexing questions at his disposal. I should imagine even the most elitist jazz lads still struggle with this kind of absolute free-form jazz but I guess it's a more accepted notion in the experimental and noise scene and hence this record finds a home on Utech - a label that takes itself incredibly seriously.
'Bengt' on face value seems to be a straight up tribute to one of the founding fathers of - how can I put this - liberated jazz. I'm not a big jazz fan and I certainly find little pleasure in listening to the saxophone but it's hard not to be impressed by the unique character of the music presented here. Gustafsson teases a great variety of tone from his Grafton. Tiny, almost indistinguishable atonal spats are punctuated by infrequent outbursts of lung power with larges spells of silence, clicking, shuffling and sax trickery also making an appearance.
Tension is built and dissipates, ideas are thrown about willy-nilly before finding new focus and, by the end of side two, we are treated to a pay-off - albeit an alternate free-jazz kinda pay-off. It's a testament to what can be achieved with the instrument if you dig deep but, of course, its appeal is limited due to the very nature of the compositions. It's not that they're uninteresting to listen too - in fact, that's my main issue - it's interesting to listen but it's impossible to decipher whether it's enjoyable to anyone other than the man blowing the pipe and shouting 'huh!' like James Brown.
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