Monday, May 16, 2005

The Thing - Garage (Smalltown Superjazz, 2004)

The Thing is a European avant-garde supertrio made up of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Ingebright Haker-Flaten and drummer Paul Nilseen-Love. They play hard core blasting free jazz, except the ringer on this disc as you can tell by the title is that they slip in a few covers of garage rock songs past and present amidst their spontaneous improvisations. It's interesting that this hasn't really been done before. Jazz has a long history of covering pop material, but the avant-garde has often spurned this. The intensity of the garage rock material covered here provided ample fodder for their improvisations though and works quite well.

Opening with a cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Art Star"it's interesting to hear a European free jazz group play funk as the melody of this tune has a bumping, funky feel before kicking into a rock out section which the band finds suitable for honking and screaming. The second cover is of The White Stripes' "Aluminium" which is taken at a boiling pace as the leather lunged Gustafsson leads the way with a harrowing solo. Thier original material takes one something os a Spirits Rejoice era Albert Ayler feel, allowing the band more space to breathe, with a more fragile, haunted tone to the music. This seperates their music from that of the covers and provides a variation of tempos, juxtoposing their jazzier material from the honking, bluesy garage rock like their final cover, that of The Sonics classic stomper "Have Love Will Travel."

I'm sure some free jazz fans cringed when they heard about this project, but it actually works quite well. They play the covers not as parody, but as music worthy of exploration, and they use their own music to provide different textures and feeling to the project. With the experimental rock (Sonic Youth, et. al.) discovering the avant-garde jazz scene, it will be interesting to see what the reaction to this disc is both from that camp and the avant jazz fans.

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