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"Unimagined hybrids of Richie Kamuca and Evan Parker, Shelly Manne and Paul Lovens, Jimmy Giuffre and Floros Floridos," says John Corbett in his liner notes. Cool free improv. Sound impossible? Guillermo Gregorio, Mats Gustafsson and Kjell Nordeson pull it off on Background Music.
Background Music is music on the edge of silence, characterized by intricate mutual listening on the part of all three musicians. Gregorio and Gustafsson don't leave behind their years of work at the outer edges of free playing; on the contrary, all the saxophone pyrotechnics for which they are known are very much in evidence here. They're just quiet. The centerpiece of the disc, the eighteen-and-a-half minute "A Tiny Bit More," flirts with silence all the way through, skittering and shimmering just above it but never altogether succumbing. There is everything from percussive pad popping to slyly askew unison long tones, but the overall feel is never obtrusive, even when the volume and energy rises precipitously.
Gustaffson is generally not as querulous here as he is on his combative duets with Barry Guy; the focus of the disc is an exploration of calmer approaches. There are moments on "A Tiny Bit More" and elsewhere where Gustafsson bares his fangs, but relatively briefly. He sounds very much like Evan Parker at many moments on this disc.
The opening "Vanderin'" and the concluding tripartite "Just About Five" are full of solemn, quiet exchanges; "Cannots" is a bit more high-powered. The three variations of "Worn" are indeed quite varied, with the "Third Variation" especially containing some especially sharp spontaneous harmony between the saxophonists.
With its quiet approach, Background Music is often intriguing, and occasionally a bit overlong. Still and all, however, there is a great deal of fine music here from three justly acclaimed improvisers.