Thursday, June 07, 2018

The Thing - Again (Trost Records, 2018)

The legendary free jazz powerhouse called The Thing consists of Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone saxophones, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on electric and acoustic basses and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion. After a dozen plus albums and collaborations, the band sounds as fresh as ever, opening with "Sur Face," composed by Gustafsson, which is a sprawling, brawling twenty-one minute performance that opens in classic Thing fashion as rolling drums meet scouring saxophone and stoic bass for an unbeatable combination. The opening minutes offer full bore free improvisation, bracing and thrilling stuff with the robust toned tenor saxophone, hyperkinetic drumming and elastic bass playing coming to the forefront. The long piece will wax and wane proceeding to an acoustic bass solo played deftly and patiently, both plucked and bowed, creating subtly designed intricate textures. The trio comes together with quiet grace, painting with sound in long tones of sandpaper gritty saxophone and strokes of bowed bass with subtle percussion framing the action. Roiling drums gather pace, extending in ever widening undulations, building to a stellar solo spot, alternately pulvering and polyrhythmic. The group comes back together, hand in glove, and turns up the heat in a memorable collective improvisation, causing great enthusiasm and eagerness within their interplay. Great gales of rending tenor saxophone and thick bass aided by complex drumming lead into The Thing's signature sound, bass and drums drop out as Gustafsson takes an unaccompanied spot powering through a muscular solo, punctuated by his own screams. Things ebb again to a subtle ghostly interplay, easing to a quiet if uneasy conclusion. Reflected and refracted spooky sound opens "Decision in Paradise" composed by the great saxophonist Frank Lowe, enveloping patient bass and saxophone, as the music eases forward and welcomes the trumpet of guest and oft-time Thing collaborator Joe McPhee whose passion for modern jazz is an inspiration. His puckered sound is an excellent foil for the saxophone and makes the most of the open space available. Cymbals shimmer as McPhee pushes forward gaining momentum, taking the band on his shoulders as the intensity reaches as boil for a four way improvised section of exciting and stirring power. Håker Flaten moves to electric bass for his own composition, "Vicki Di," adding a cool sound for the band to use, with the saxophone and drumming soon giving chase. This leads to a thrilling free for all with the unperturbed bobbing bass at the center of the action. Saxophone and drums lay out for an outrageously exciting Hendrixian electric bass solo filled with fireworks and massive drones. Everyone piles on for a intense blowout that will set your hair on end, and leave the listener giddy with excitement. The Thing (plus honorary member McPhee) are masters of their respective instruments and this allows them to make such continuously interesting albums. There is always a sense of exploring the unknown, that need to know what is over the next hill, that drives their wonderful music. This is an absolute must for free jazz fans as the group is at the top of their game throughout this stellar album. Again -

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