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Mats Gustafsson / Barry Guy: Frogging

Robert Spencer By

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Intriguing. This disc is a counterpart to Obliquities, Guy's 1994 duets with his longtime trio partner Evan Parker. But Mats Gustafsson, who like Parker plays tenor but also baritone sax, flute, fluteophone and French flageolet, is an even more acerbic player than Parker. His playing is even farther removed from conventional reed playing than Guy's more prominent foil, although it clearly shows the influence of Parker: Gustafsson indeed represents the post-Parker generation of reedmen. Meanwhile, this disc highlights how much Guy's bass contributes to the distinctive sound of Parker / Guy / Lytton, and how powerfully the bassist drives his mates.

It is often difficult to tell which instrument Gustafsson is playing, but on the opener, "Bufo punctatis" (all the tracks are scientific names for frogs) he seems to be on baritone. Powered by Guy, he gibbers and squeaks, chirps and mutters, clicks and swirls. It is a bravura show for those who have already digested Parker and his fellows, and the frogs just keep coming. I think "Hyla pickeringii" is on tenor – sometimes Gus sounds a bit like Charles Gayle, but there is less inexorable forward motion.

"Scapiopus couchii" features long tones, unmistakably on fluteophone (although Gayle does sometimes play his tenor up here in nosebleed range, so...). Gus clicks and screams, Guy strums and plucks on the rousing "Lythodytes ricordii" (a piece for baritone). "Discoglossidae" is almost delicate, although Gus' fluteophone (flageolet?) overblowing creates a jet effect over Guy's breathtaking peripatetics.

The real standout is the longest track, "Hyla gratiosa." The full range of effects – and the range is wide – of both players comes through here. Gus sounds more like Parker here than anywhere else, whirling and swirling, but still in a gruffer and rougher fashion. Later he switches to a whistling instrument, and to a goldmine of inventiveness.

I'll tell you, friends, this is highly unconventional, experimental music which never ceases to fascinate. Gustafsson doesn't play notes very often, and neither he nor Guy are interested in conventional time or scales – but this is fascinating music. For the adventurous soul, Frogging is a first-class excursion into new textures and sounds.

| Record Label: Maya | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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