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Zu with Mats Gustafsson: How To Raise An Ox

Andrey Henkin By

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Online, there is a website called the "Metal Family Tree . Jazz, though in existence for much longer, has resisted being broken into such small edible pieces. If, though, we take inspiration (and terminology) from the Metal Family Tree, the Italian trio Zu could easily be classified as Sludge Doom, a more abrasive version of the dark rock of Black Sabbath. Comprised of baritone sax (Luca Mai), electric bass (Massimo Pupillo) and drums (Jacopo Battaglia), Zu paint grim post-apocalyptic musical portraits in discordant colors and thick brush-jabs. But Zu approach this genre with a slightly sardonic humor (their last album featured a tune called "Tom Araya [lead singer of Slayer] is our Elvis ).

Baritone saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, celebrated for many projects including the AALY Trio and The Thing, has more of a hardcore mentality (slightly down and to the right on the tree). His playing is more aggressive and he approaches it with more of a serious, or perhaps earnest is a better term, air. Gustafsson has distilled the essence of punk and Peter Brötzmann into a remarkably violent fusion.

Bring these two branches of the Creative Jazz Tree together and you get one interesting acorn. How To Raise An Ox is a Zu album first and foremost, as evinced by the mischievous titles ("Palace of Reptiles and "Bring the War Back Home are key examples). But Gustafsson's involvement does adjust the proceedings towards the more incendiary. If Zu alone are post-apocalyptic, Zu with Gustafsson is a document of the apocalypse itself, replete with agonized wails and mutated insects chittering over rotting corpses. Gustafsson's improv-jazz background also means some of the tunes are also extended past Zu's median length of three minutes (but not by much as the album is still under forty-five minutes for nine tunes).

Zu has a history of joining forces with other iconoclastic groups or individuals but Gustafsson does seem particularly suited to frost Zu's cake. The baritone sax may be one of the most visceral, almost primeval, instruments and two—one rumbling, the other screeching—is a fabulous weapon. And while the electric bass is a disastrous element in jazz, Pupillo plays more like Blacky from the metal band Voivod than Jaco Pastorius. Since Zu and Gustafsson are both trying to incorporate certain belligerent textures into improvised music, How To Raise An Ox has the uneasy air of an alliance between Armageddon survivors eking out some sort of blighted existence.


Track Listing: Over A Furnace; How To Raise An Ox; Eating The Landscape; The King Devours His Sons; Bring The War Back Home; Meat Eater, Solar Bird; Palace Of Reptiles; Beasts Only Die To Be Born; The Tiger Teaches The Lamb.

Personnel: Luca Mai: baritone saxophone; Mats Gustafsson: baritone saxophone; Massimo Pupillo: electric bass; Jacopo Battaglia: drums.

Title: How To Raise An Ox | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Atavistic Worldwide

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