2

Mats/Morgan Band: Live

Dave Wayne By

Sign in to view read count
Mats/Morgan Band: Live Keyboardist Mats Öberg and drummer Raoul Bjorkenheim—Bill Laswell—Morgen Agren—known as much for their musical brilliance as they are for their devotion to the music of Frank Zappa—are at their hyperactive best on this remastered recording from Stockholm's Club Fasching in 1999. Six pieces by Ågren and five by Öberg comprise this all-original set that shows quite a bit more variety and showmanship than might be expected from a pair of former child prodigies immersed in the world of strange and difficult music.

Öberg and Ågren were on their way to becoming household names in their native Sweden. They'd already collaborated with both Frank and Dweezil Zappa, and Ågren even had his own television show, Trum, a couple of years later. In fact, several of the tracks on Live—"Hollmervalsen," "En Schizophrens Dagbok," "Min Hast," and "Etage A41"—were revisited on Trum, played by the same band.

At this point, the Mats/Morgan sound was mostly centered around its namesakes. Even Morgan's brother, guitarist Jimmy Ågren, gets only a few brief features, though his solo on "Etage A41" is certainly enticing. Öberg's solos, throughout Live, are wondrously unlikely mashups of classical, avant-garde, gospel, and jazz. Though he possessed a fully mature style at this point, his sound has roots in George Duke's keyboard work from the early '70s—both with Zappa and on solo LPs like The Aura Will Prevail (MPS, 1975). Ågren is a percussive marvel, making oddly syncopated patterns in odd time signatures flow and groove like the simplest 4/4 pattern.

Ågren's composing on "Hollmervalsen," "Etage A41," and "Jigsaw Variations" contains a dose of highly rhythmic minimalism of the sort espoused by composer Steve Reich. This is a bit ironic, as Zappa was no fan of minimalism. These pieces feature dizzying polymetric and polyrhythmic phrases, often in odd time signatures, that are repeated with a near-obsessive attention to detail and dynamics. It's an attractive tension-building approach, albeit one that's used almost to excess. Still, the band loosens up during Öberg's amazing solos, particularly on the irresistibly funky "Guardian Pitch."

The Zappa influences are most evident in the melodic content of Öberg's "Ta Ned Trasan," "Min Hast," and "Igloo." Here, the band shows its lyrical side a bit, while executing oddly accented, dissonant, nearly impossible to play phrases and turnarounds with effortless grace and panache. The reactions throughout Live also suggest that the audience is literally hanging onto every note. A jazz-rock fusion marvel over a decade ago, the Mats/Morgan band has subsequently gone from strength to strength. Recent recordings reveal a more organic approach to music-making, and one less concerned with musical mathematics. Öberg's somewhat surreal vocal stylings appear more often, and there are more contributions from Jimmy Ågren and bassist Tommy Thordsson. Still, Live proves that fusion can be as entertaining as it is mindboggling.

Track Listing: Hollmervalsen; En Schizophrens Dagbok; Ta Ned Trasan; Jigsaw Variations; Guardian Pitch; Paltsug; Etage A41; Min Hast; Banned Again; Igloo; Kintornen.

Personnel: Mats Oberg: keyboards; Morgan Agren: drums; Tommy Thordsson: bass; Jimmy Agren: guitar; Eric Carlsson: keyboards; Robert Elovsson: keyboards.

Title: Live | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles

More Articles

Read The Company I Keep CD/LP/Track Review The Company I Keep
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Ma De Re Sha CD/LP/Track Review Ma De Re Sha
by Geno Thackara
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Ask Seek Knock CD/LP/Track Review Ask Seek Knock
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Air and Light and Time and Space CD/LP/Track Review Air and Light and Time and Space
by John Eyles
Published: June 28, 2017
Read Eleven Cages CD/LP/Track Review Eleven Cages
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 27, 2017
Read Afro-Caribbean Mixtape CD/LP/Track Review Afro-Caribbean Mixtape
by Mark F. Turner
Published: June 27, 2017
Read "The Broader Picture" CD/LP/Track Review The Broader Picture
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 8, 2016
Read "Isang" CD/LP/Track Review Isang
by Roger Farbey
Published: December 24, 2016
Read "Live At Blues Alley" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Blues Alley
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 4, 2016
Read "Mask Dance" CD/LP/Track Review Mask Dance
by Ian Patterson
Published: May 3, 2017
Read "Vol. 02" CD/LP/Track Review Vol. 02
by Dave Wayne
Published: November 21, 2016
Read "Live At The High Noon" CD/LP/Track Review Live At The High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017

Smart Advertising!

Musician? Boost your visibility at All About Jazz and drive traffic to your website with our Premium Profile service.