Sunday, November 08, 2015

The Thing - Shake (The Thing Records, 2015)

Avant-jazz powerhouse The Thing is back with a powerful and exciting record that ranks with some of the best music this unit has ever made. Mixing challenging original compositions and radically re-worked alternative rock songs, The Thing: Mats Gustafsson on saxophones, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums uses ferocious free playing and spaces of lyrical abstraction to present their musical ideas. “Viking Disco/Perfection” shows them blasting out of the gate with Gustafsson blowing piercing gales over throbbing bass and thrashing drums. The trio is locked in with the vision that they have honed over the past fifteen years of playing together and this carries through both sections of the improvisation, urging each other on until the end. There is a spacey and abstract beginning to “Til Jord Skal Du Bli” with skittering cymbals and probing saxophone. They slowly and patiently ramp up the pressure, beginning with an excellent section for bass and subtle percussion. Gustafsson rejoins them and the music begins to reach full boil with long growls and wails of saxophone and very fast and complex drumming. “LOOP – The Nail Will Burn” is just a short blasting track of riotous free jazz fun, imagining a free jazz band as a garage rock outfit that is blasting out raw and excoriating music. Alto saxophonist Anna Hogberg and cornet player Goran Kajfes join the group on the lengthy song “Aim” which again builds slowly and patiently, with Gustafsson’s playing sounding akin to the blues in its emotion. The other horns glide in and up the ante considerably, making the music majestic and extremely potent. They release into torrid free playing with Gustafsson’s baritone saxophone on the bottom layer while the alto and cornet soar and the bass and drums blur with motion. The trio has a crisp and edgy sensibility on “Bota Fogo,” playing with the melody and then twisting it and making their own way with the possibilities that it allows. Gustafsson punctuates this with blistering wails while Nillsen-Love is setting epic rhythms and Haker-Flaten holds the center. This album shows why The Thing are such a widely respected group in modern jazz. They are able to seek out and take a wide range of material, whether their own tunes or song by others, and make them sound uniquely their own using an individual conception and empathetic nature brought on by so many years playing together. Fans see them as a hard blowing outfit, which they are, and that is absolutely thrilling. But they also play with a grace and confidence that makes the music all the more admirable. Shake -

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