Click here to [close]

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Gush - Afro Blue (Trost Records, 2024)

By Stef Gijssels

John Coltrane's "Live In Japan" (1991), starts with a phenomenal thirty-eight minute long rendition of the Latin jazz composition "Afro Blue" by Mongo Santamaria from his 1959 album "Mongo". (On the same Coltrane album, "My Favorite Things" lasts even fifty-seven minutes!). The original Coltrane version appears on "Live At Birdland" (1964), and Coltrane and band demonstrated already then how a joyful and entertaining tune can be moved to a completely different plane, one of authentic emotional power and depth, of spirituality and aesthetic vision. The tune became a standard in Coltrane's repertoire, as much as "My Favorite Things", "Naima", "Impressions" and a few others. 

It's a challenge to bring a rendition of Coltrane's favorite tunes, and to make it work. The Swedish power trio of Mats Gustafsson on saxes, Sten Sandell on piano and Raymond Strid on drums take the risk. And they do more than survive, so much so that I have been replaying the same tune again and again for the last days. All three musicians give it their best, and Gustafsson's howling tenor is truly magnificent, as are Sandell's dramatic and ominous piano parts, and Strid's rumbling percussion. It is a phenomenal track that made me laugh out loud of sheer listening joy. It lasts around nineteen minutes, half of Coltrane's performance on "Live In Japan", and I truly wish that it did not stop. But it does, with a tremendous finale, and with a solid dry beat on the drums. So replay. Again. Gustafsson howls and wails and roars like only he can do it, with a wonderful sense of keeping the tune somewhere intact flying through this sonic hurricane. 

The album starts with two strong Sandell compositions, "Behind The Chords V" and "Behind The Chords VI", two equally long tracks, excellent pieces, very much led and structured by the piano, and with Gustafsson again outperforming himself. The compelling compositions come from Sandell's album "Behind the Chords", which was just released then in 1998, when this live performance took place at Jazzclub Fasching in Stockholm. Both pieces are long enough to give each musician ample solo time, including a truly captivating percussion solo by Raymond Strid, halfway the first track. Sandell's playing incorporates many styles, from subtle lyricism over grand chords to percussive powerplay. 

The album ends with a near silent encore, just two minutes long, a kind of lullaby to calm our spirits after all the incredible tension. 

Don't miss it!

Repeat button ...

Listen and download from Bandcamp


Don Phipps said...

Three words: Just awesome music! Thanks for sharing.