Remember Eva from Jim Jarmusch's first feature film Stranger Than Paradise
? She, a thick-accented Eastern European, was fixated on the American bluesman Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Her out of character declarations to "bug off so she can dig the tune "I Put A Spell On You was so unnatural, you knew this film was never planning to retain any sort of balance.
Same can be said for the Swedish duo of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and guitarist David Stackenäs. Their take on the "blues" is akin to an American ordering spaghetti with peanut sauce.
Ken Vandermark's liner notes essay the musical differences between European and American jazzmen, and the recording demonstrates the same. The divide here is not the "blues." This is not a blues record. Gustafsson and Stackenäs favor instant composition and space. Swing is replaced with swonk (and honk!). Mats Gustafsson does what he does best. The saxophonist sticks with his baritone horn here, as he did on the 2004 disc Catapult. The baritone allows a more intimate reaction to Stackenäs' guitar.
Tones and space replace swing and rhythm. Did I mention this is not a blues record? Stackenäs, an accomplished free jazz guitarist, has digested Derek Bailey and Fred Frith and speaks their tongue with a Swedish accent. He adds tension, vibrations, and daring runs of energy playing. On "Bumble Bee Blues he touches on a bit of slide-guitar blues before rocketing into the deconstructed future. Ah, they are just playing with us! Gustafsson applies his high-end jabs and vocalizations, steering your mind farther and farther from the crossroads.
Okay, so I'm still hung up on the titles here. You need not be, and this is quite an enjoyable set of free improvisation.
Track Listing: Shave’em Wet; Bumble Bee Blues; Built To Do What You Did Last Night; You Have To
get Low As a Toad Again; Take Your Hand Off It; Rotten Herring Blues.
Personnel: Mats Gustafsson: baritone saxophone; David Stackenäs: guitar.