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Fire!: You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago (2009)

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Fire!: You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Mats Gustafsson and the word "accessible" are rarely found in the same sentence. For over two decades, this Swedish reed player has been mining the extreme end of free improvisation and cued composition with like-minded players including Peter Brotzmann
Peter Brotzmann
Peter Brotzmann
b.1941
reeds
, Ken Vandermark
Ken Vandermark
Ken Vandermark
b.1964
saxophone
, and The Thing, his ongoing collective with bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love
Paal Nilssen-Love
Paal Nilssen-Love
b.1974
drums
. You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago may not exactly be rife for radio play, but its preponderance of potent grooves does temper the more expressionistic tendencies of the Fire! trio, making it a rare, approachable entry point into Gustafsson's generally denser, more jagged landscapes.

Perhaps it's the saxophonist's doubling on Fender Rhodes, as well as Johan Berthling supplementing his double-bass with Hammond organ, electric guitar and electric bass, that makes these four improvisations, ranging from four to eighteen minutes, a little less abstruse. The influence of Soft Machine
Soft Machine
Soft Machine

band/orchestra
can be heard in Berthling's Hugh Hopper
Hugh Hopper
Hugh Hopper
1945 - 2009
bass, electric
-like fuzz bass and Gustafsson's heavily overdriven electric piano on "Can I Hold You For a Minute?" But just as that seminal, early-1970s British group ultimately pushed its pop roots over the edge, Fire! comes from the other side, tempering its more angular sonics and cathartic performances and finding middle ground between the two. They find it far left of center to be sure, but still closer to it than is typically heard from Gustafsson.

Still, Soft Machine is but one clear reference point in a set that also includes the relentless riffing of the title track, where two minor-third intervals are alternated by Gustafsson on baritone. Berthling follows the saxophonist, with only drummer Andreas Werlin creating a sense of variation on a four-minute closer that strangely references the raw, germinal blues of Robert Johnson
Robert Johnson
Robert Johnson
1911 - 1938
vocalist
or Lazy Lester
Lazy Lester
Lazy Lester
b.1933
. Berthling's repetitive bass riff and Werlin's elastic shuffle drive the opening "If I Took Your Hand...," and Gustafsson takes his time to enter with a raging baritone. Contextualized by Berthling, the saxophonist's visceral wails feel somehow grounded and, consequently, easier to grab onto.

But if there's a highlight amongst these improvs, it's the 18-minute "But Sometimes I Am," which also features guest vocalist Mariam Wallentin. Again, a repeated bass figure introduces the piece, but it's darker, sparer than anything else in the set. Werlin's approach is all coloristic cymbal splashes, and it's nearly four minutes before Gustafsson joins in—outré, but more restrained than usual. Most unexpected, then, is eight minutes in, when Werlin shifts to a light pulse that's in no small part referential to Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
' In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969), just as Berthlin's organ is a clear reference to the late Joe Zawinul
Joe Zawinul
Joe Zawinul
1932 - 2007
keyboard
's wobbly organ on that classic release. But even that's only a setup for an even more unexpected shift to a harder, backbeat-driven rhythm and some deep interplay between Gustaffson's Rhodes and Berthlin's fuzz bass.

You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago is a fitting addition to Rune Grammofon's distinctively experimental discography. But for a saxophonist like Gustafsson, whose oeuvre is generally more aggressive, Fire! proves he's not averse to a little more accessible exploration, every now and then.

Track Listing: If I Took Your Hand...; But Sometimes I Am; Can I Hold You For a Minute?; You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago.

Personnel: Mats Gustafsson: tenor and baritone saxophones, electronics, Fender Rhodes; Johan Berthling: double-bass, electric guitar, electric bass, Hammond organ; Andreas Werlin: drums, percussion; Mariam Wallentin: vocals (2).

Record Label: Rune Grammofon

Style: Modern Jazz


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