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Mats/Morgan Band: Thanks For Flying With Us

Trevor MacLaren By

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The Mats/Morgan band is centered around child prodigies Mats Oberg and Morgan Ägren, who worship at that altar of American composer and cult icon Frank Zappa. Oberg, who by the age of three was singing, playing keyboards, and listening to Miles Davis, would later hone a palette that would include progressive rock and funk. Ägren is a percussionist who began at age four with a penchant for Louie Bellson and Buddy Rich. They met and started their collaboration in 1981 at the urging of a concert promoter when Ägren was fourteen and 'Oberg was ten!

Oberg and Ägren formed a Zappa cover band alled Zappesteetoot, which toured and awed Zappa enough to have them play "T'Mershi Duween with him during a Stockholm show. He was very impressed and had taken them under his wing, but due to his early death, he never was able to use them as a touring unit. Through the nineties and into the new century they played at many Zappa festivals and with Zappa-based bands, including records by Dweezil Zappa and Zappa alumni Terry Bozzio and Steve Vai. They have also played with several bands while finding time to release six records.

Thanks For Flying With Us owes a homage to Zappa's synclavier period that is remembered best on the Grammy-winning Jazz from Hell. The band includes Jimmy Ägren (bass, guitar), Tommy Tordsson (bass), and Robert Elovsson (keyboards, clarinet, vocals). The guests include Ismet Demirhan on reeds, Johan Soderkvist on klaviharp (a cross between a cembalo and a clavinet); Tina Ahlin, Mija Folessonand, and Henrik Holmlund on vocals; and Malin My Nilsson on violin. The sound is truly unique and hard to categorize.

At times the band comes out with a funky beat, like on the opening "Sinus, before driving into the syth tones that are based on their mentor. The record at times has avant-garde themes mixed in with odd time signatures, played at fast speeds that completely blow the mind. Other times the sound is laid back and recalls the syth work of Todd Rundgren solo and with Utopia over the last past 25 years. Then, just when you think you have a grip on the guys, they pull out an electronica beat.

Quite frankly, this recording is not for the faint of heart, and it's hard to recommend to those who are looking for jazz records in any form. Sure, there is jazz influences in the playing, but this album is more suited to those with adventurous tastes that reach way outside of jazz realms and into the avant-garde. That said, the playing is unbelievable. These guys are top performers and their chops are brilliant. Thanks For Flying With Us is absolutely a must for fans of experimental music and latter day Zappa.


Track Listing: Sinus; Thanks For Flying With Us; Adat Dropouts ILove You; Not Us; JF's Tati-Car; La Baratte; Softma; Wounded Bird; Proppeller Hast; Allan in the Rain; Wenjie; Please Remain Seated; Bonus Tracks: Coco; Live Neff; Alive in Enskede; Ivan.

Personnel: Mats ?Oberg: keyboards; harmonica; vocals; Morgan

Title: Thanks For Flying With Us | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records

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