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Mats Gustafsson


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If Mats Gustafsson's approach to music were to be described with a single adjective, it would have to be "intense." This applies to him both as a musician, as illustrated by over three decades of playing with stalwarts of the free and creative jazz scenes on both sides of the Ocean (Ken Vandermark, Peter Brötzmann, Joe McPhee, Derek Bailey etc.), and as a voracious crate-digger and record-trader with a two and a half ton vinyl cave in rural Austria. We could not but ask the Swedish self-described discaholic what he's been listening to lately...

1. Hank Mobley, Hank Mobley (Blue Note, 1957)

The ultimate jazz record! Everything is extremely well balanced and imaginative on this supersession. The tenor sax is poetic beauty beyond belief and the trumpet playing of Art Farmer has never been more lyrical and emotionally present. Art Blakey is a swinging genius and that is very clear on this session. The cover image is a photo that has stayed in my mind for years. This is a must have for any jazz fan! An absolute essential killer album! When I finally got hold of a mono copy of the original first pressing, it was one of the happiest days of my life as a discaholic! This is music that I get back to almost every day!

2. Bitch Magnet, Ben Hur (Glitterhouse,1990)

A beautiful classic! Slow and poetic, noisy and hard, but yet a penetrating brutal hymn of an album. Epic! Jazz or not? Who cares? This music is happening for the right reasons. Mindblowing and hard hitting flow of beauty! Layers of riffs and distorsion creates a beautiful instrumental beast!

3. Brussels Art Quintet, Brussels Art Quintet (BAQ, 1968)

A very rare and totally beautiful 7" of early European spiritual free jazz! I have only seen one copy in all the years and I just got this one last week. Babs Robert playing a very expressive and emotionally charged tenor sax on top of a seldom heard Belgian hard hitting and groovy background. 1968 was the year it all happened. Free the jazz! And preferably on 7" format! Great Cobra art related cover by the late Serge Vandercam!

4. Yosuke Yamashita Trio, Montreux Afterglow (Frasco, 1976)

Of all the great Yamashita trio albums ever made... this one stands out! Akira Sakata playing the most frenetic and laser-charged alto sax freakin' ever! This is trio music interaction of the highest level. Extreme energy. Extreme flow. In your face! The Yamashita Trio is one of the most amazing groups ever active on the scene. For people that haven't checked this out—you have a life changing experience in front of you! You dig? The version of Ayler's "Ghost" is beyond scary... Beyond good. This record is spinning on one of my turntables every week... it needs to be there. Intensity from another planet. And beauty!

5. Codeine, Barely Real (Sub Pop, 1992)

Another slab of slow moving energy that I can't resist and don't want to resist. Distorted beauty. An LP given to me by the great Johan Berthling, of Tape-fame. He thought it was missing in my collection. And he was right. I have been playing this record for brekfast for 2 months in a row. Can't get enough of distorted guitars creating layers of wisdom and I will always and forver be into slow riffing in a trio format. One of the true essences in my life. Slow riffing. What can be better?

6. Louis Moholo-Moholo, Spirits Rejoice (Ogun, 1978)

One of my all time favourite records of all time. I kid you not! I always travel with a copy. I need to have access to the musical beauty and poetry of this amazing album. It has everything! Swing, freedom, melodic beauty and ecstasy! Evan Parker is playing like never before, hitting peaks of beauty. Kenny Wheeler has never played more intensely. And the rhythmic roar of Moholo together with two of the most intense bass players on the scene ever: Johnny Dyani and Harry Miller. The arrangements on this album are pure genius... the material is breathtaking and the level of improvising is stunning. This album is unreal. From another planet. Did I mention that I really dig the music? An absolute must have for any fan of creative music, no matter what genre. On my top 10 list of recorded music!

7. Serge Chaloff, Boston Blow up! (Capitol, 1955)

A masterpiece of Jazz. I have many copies of this album. And I keep playing them all the time: mono, stereo, Japanese pressings... because this is truly great jazz music. Improvising over harmonic progressions in a free way. Relaxed and still with an extreme imaginative tension! Chaloff is one of the reasons I started play baritone sax, the other two are John Surman and Lars Gullin. The way Chaloff punctuated his phrases, landing at the darkest places with an exact and hard articualtion is... a proof of musical genius. The tone! The tone! Chaloff could stop the time. He could create time. Absolute DNA-changing sax playing. Listen to "What's New" and close your eyes. It is all there! Classic!

8. Paul Bley, Closer (ESP, 1966)

I got this test-press with an alternative cover just recently. I have never seen anything like this cover before. Thick cardboard cover with handstamped stickers. No info on the net. I love the look and feel of it. And listening to it again reminds me of what an amazing record this is. Lyricism and emotional jazz that balance its content beautifully. What a Trio album! Marvellous interplay between Steve Swallow, Bley and a young Barry Altschul! The pieces, mainly by Carla Bley, create a bed of poetry to play within. The opening "Ida Lupino" is true beauty. But the rest of the album is quite experimental and actually extremly interesting in its deep research! This is truly an album to get back to frequently!

9. Göteborgs Musikkvartett, Göteborgs Musikkvartett (SJR, 1974)

A Swedish free jazz bomb. The late tenor saxophonist Ove Johansson in peak form. Brutal and expressive but yet very melodic. This was an important group in Sweden in the '70s. Steering shit up! An amazing flow of things! The material is picked from various themes from different folk cultures but handled in a way that only Göteborgs Musikkvartett could do. I picked up this copy last week and I smile every time I listen to it. The free jazz tradition in Scandinavia in the '60s and '70s are quite spectacular. Someting to really make deeper research into!

10. Lee Konitz, Tranquility (Verve, 1957)

Lee Konitz... what can we say that has not been said before? Details of intricate interaction between the horizontal lines and the vertical mysteries of the materials. Billy Bauer's exactly delivered guitar chords provide the perfect foundations for Konitz to move above, under and inside. Special bonus is hearing the true Henry Grimes deliver such imaginative playing within the structure of the pieces. It swings! Music is flowing and floating in a way that sounds... like a perfect and bizarre background music with extreme sense of detail and microtension. Story telling that really communicates something. This is Jazz to me. Communication and improvisation. Free the jazz!

Photo credit: Luciano Rossetti (Phocus Agency)

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