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Extended Analysis

Cato Salsa Experience & The Thing With Joe McPhee: Two Bands And A Legend

By Published: May 20, 2007
Two Bands And A Legend
Cato Salsa Experience & The Thing With Joe McPhee
Smalltown Superjazz

"Are you cramped? Can you find your mind? Can you shake your ass?" asks Sonic Youth's guitarist Thurston Moore in his liner notes to Two Bands And A Legend. The album is the second collaboration (after Sound Like A Sandwich, Smalltown Superjazz, 2005) between Norwegian/Swedish power jazz trio The Thing, Norwegian psychedelic quartet Cato Salsa Experience (CSE) and American multi-instrumentalist and free jazz legend Joe McPhee.

Metallic guitar chords and pounding drums pierce your ears with the answer as the octet open up with a cover P. J. Harvey's "Who The Fuck". You hear the wailing saxophones of The Thing's Mats Gustafsson, along with McPhee hovering over the screaming guitars, and you look for shelter. And that's only the beginning of the aural assault. Bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten begins The Sonics' "The Witch" with a masterful two-minute, Kowald-ian bass workout—molesting the battered bull fiddle with his bow, sawing repeatedly through the minimalist chord that serves as the backbone of the song—before the other seven musicians come alongside at full throttle. Gustafsson tears down the sky with his blows, while Flaten tries to maintain the structure with precise hits of his bow.

McPhee reveals his aesthetic philosophy on Gustafsson's "Tekla Loo"—"hunt down the collapse of the routine"—before embarking on a soulful tenor saxophone solo which leads the band into a tumultuous guitar-feedback jam. Gustafsson on baritone and McPhee on tenor begin Richard Berry's classic "Louie Louie" with a muscular blowing fight, resonating more with Peter Brötzmann's rough mode of attack than the more innocent rhythm 'n' blues of the 1960s. But the two successfully articulate the theme, complementing the shattered vocals of Cato Thomassen, before concluding their duet in a more pacified manner, to which Gustafsson adds some raw electronics.

Just as you think that this collection of wild minds can't surprise you any more, the band tenderly cover the late South African trumpeter Mongezi Feza's "You Ain't Gonna Know Me 'Cos You Think You Know Me." McPhee repeats the beautiful line on the pocket trumpet, Gustafsson vibrates his tenor, and the Experience's guitarists ornament the breezy melody with Hawaiian-style lines. Next is a cover of Gustafsson's daughter Alva Melin's "The Nut." CSE's Bård Enerstad introduces the piece with psychedelic organ abuse, reminiscent of Keith Emerson during the heyday of The Nice, before Gustafsson and McPhee storm out with breathtaking (for them, one imagines, literally) solos. James Blood Ulmer's "Baby Talk" recieves an Ornette Coleman-ish, funky-march interpretation in which thorny, angular guitar lines are set to an almost symmetrical horn choir. CSE leads the last piece, "I Can't Find My Way," a tune that sounds like the suspense theme to a cheap thriller.

"Is this superjazz? Does The Thing want to rock the fuck out?" adds Moore elsewhere on the liner notes. This disc answers all the questions with a resounding, drawn out: Yes!

Tracks: Who The Fuck; The Witch; Too Much Fun; Tekla Loo; Louie Louie; You Ain't Gonna Know Me 'Cos You Think You Know Me; The Nut; Baby Talk; I Can't Find My Mind, The Nut; Baby Talk; I Can't Find My Mind.

Personnel: Cato Salsa Experience: Cato Thomassen: guitar, vocals; Bård Enerstad: guitar, organ, theremin, vocals; Christian Engfelt: bass, vocals; Jon Magne Riise: drums. The Thing: Mats Gustafsson: tenor & baritone saxophone, electronics; Ingebright Håker Flaten: double bass, electronics; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums. Joe McPhee: tenor saxophone, pocket trumpet, vocals.

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