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Monday, April 1, 2019

Fire! And Madalyn Merkey @ Clemente Soto Velez on March 28, 2019

Fire! Matts Gustafsson, Johan Berthling, and Andreas Werlin
By Eric Stern

This was a trio version of the group. Mats Gustafsson played alto, tenor and baritone saxophones along with electronics, with Johan Berthling on bass and, Andreas Werlin on drums. The performance began with the rhythm section playing a vamp with Gustafsson playing electronics over the top. A ritual cleansing by noise. Gustafsson quickly moved to his baritone, amplifying the intensity. He moved massive columns of air to create a powerful sound that transported all of us in the audience into heavy metal territory. This was followed by Gustafsson playing a bit of tenor and alto, all to impressive effect. My only small wish would be for him to have played a bit more of these horns. I really enjoyed Gustafsson’s playing. In between songs he mocked how complex the tunes were, but actually their simple direct approach was perfect for “Fire Music.” Berthling laid down some deep electric bass, reminiscent sometimes of Bill Laswell, to manufacture a dense aura of sound which seemed to surround the group. Drummer Werlin created a solid rock foundation with some interesting percussion fills. Ending with the piece “Garage,” this was indeed some fine Scandinavian Jazz.

Madalyn Merkey
Madalyn Merkey began the night playing a laptop which seemed to be filled with the type of electronic sounds used by Arne Nordheim in the late 1960s. When I got home, I checked and it turns out that she did her MFA work at Mills College where she studied the work of Enore Zaffiri, the Italian electronic composer. I enjoyed the music she created even though live laptop simply is not a favorite for me. I would rather just hear this type of music at home, than watch someone typing on a stage. Still, I feel it was a successful debut for her in general as my preferences seemed to be a minority view,

The Flamboyán Theater of Clemente Soto Velez is a great venue for shows like this, with seating on the side and a large middle-section of hardwood cover flooring where people could stand. The sound was good, and there are no obvious obstacles to vision lines. Presenter Blank Forms attracted a diverse and enthusiastic group of people of all ages.