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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Correction with Mats Gustafsson: Shift (NoBusiness, 2013) **** ½

By Martin Schray

In Gaito Gazdanov’s marvelous novel “The Spectre of Alexander Wolf” there is a crucial scene in which the narrator contemplates his future lover Jelena Nikolajewna and wonders about her disharmonic physiognomy which he considers as almost deformed. But then she starts smiling and immediately there is an expression of warmth and a sensual charm which makes her appear in a completely new light. Out of the blue he is drunk from her presence and the longer he looks at her he feels that he is helpless against this emotion, he has lost any form of control. He closes his eyes and notices an opaqueness of his senses, for the first time in his life he perceives an inexplicable oneness of pure emotional and physical sentiment flooding his whole conscience, literally everything, even the remotest muscle in his body.

There is a similar sensation when you listen to “Shift” by The Correction with Mats Gustafsson. After the first six tracks you might wonder if the strange combination of the piano trio with the free jazz saxophone colossus fits (or not) but then you hear the title track, the last one on the album, and everything is different, the whole album is not the same anymore, there is the same inexplicable oneness the narrator in the novel feels.

My expectations were high when rumors were spread that Gustafsson was going to release an album with his fellow countrymen because in the liner notes to one of their former albums he said that he had “heard only a few new groups with this extremely generous, humble, and still very defined group activity”. But in spite of their mutual appreciation they are not an obvious match made in heaven. The Correction (Sebastian Bergström on piano, Joacim Nyberg on bass and Emil Åstrand-Melin on drums) is a very versatile band, they play almost everything from abstract minimalism, Monk-ish phrases and free jazz clusters that remind of Cecil Taylor’s seminal Feel Trio to poetic lyrical – and even swinging - textures which positions them close to bands like Craig Taborn’s trio with Thomas Morgan and Gerald Cleaver.

You can hear this in “Looking up. Birds” in which the band prepares a simmering stew of rolling bass lines, hard bop piano chords and staccato drum barrage which is augmented by Gustafsson’s wild R’n’B honks. Sometimes they sound like the Schlippenbach Quartet (“Four is a Sufficient Condition for Amendment”, “Correct This!”), sometimes like a new classical chamber music ensemble (the beginning of “Winters Within”) before the album closes with “Shift”, this incredibly dark and beautiful film-noir-goes-David-Lynch ballad that puts all these tracks in a different perspective. And suddenly there is true coherence in everything that might have sounded inconsistent before, there is a meaning in all the abrasive and fragmentary sounds, there is beauty underneath all that.

“Shift” is not an easy album indeed. Above all, it is definitely not a typical Gustafsson album (like the ones with Fire! or The Thing or his latest solo recordings). It needs several attempts to reveal its true nature but then it rewards the listener with hidden qualities and unusual structures.

The album is available on vinyl only and limited to 500 copies.

You can buy it from