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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Gush - Afro Blue (Trost Records, 2024)

By Ferruccio Martinotti

First thing first, for the sake of the transparency to the readers, in our less than humble opinion Mats Gustafsson is the one and only legitimate heir of Kaiser Brotzmann, an indispensable, larger than life musical landmark who encompasses all the features of a true artist: open, brave, maverick, insane, outrageous, label-less, pigeonhole-less, unstoppable, untamable, drive-forward only. Luckily for us, the Man is also hyper-prolific on the 360 degrees of his musical scope, offering to our insatiable palates a gorgeous menu made of bands (Fire!, Fire! Orchestra, The Thing, The End, Fake the facts, Nu Ensemble etc); lateral projects (Hidros etc); countless collaborations (Brotzmann, Sonic Youth, Moore, O’Rourke, McPhee, Vandermark, Merzbow, Nilssen-Love, Chippendale, Zu etc); solo works and even an exhilarating book about his “discaholic” addiction as compulsive records collector. Simply put, a sheer free soul. Shouldn’t be enough (surely, it’s not enough...), thanks to the always commendable Trost Records we have now the chance to discover some shining pebbles from his past: four pieces captured live in Stockholm at the Jazzclub Fasching on December 17, 1998, under the flag of Gush, a trio that, along with Mats (soprano, tenor sax) sees Sten Sandell (piano) and Raymond Strid (drums). 

To shine a light on what Gush was (is?), let’s listen to the story as told by Mr. Gustafsson himself in the liner notes of the disc. The group, born as a drone-oriented project inspired by the sound of the duduk, an Armenian double reed instrument made of apricot wood, soon developed onto new sounds and sailed towards roaring sonic waters, investing a tremendous amount of time in rehearsing, playing and travelling together. Frozen the group on a long hiatus, after 25 years Raymond Strid discovered by chance the original DAT of the above mentioned gig that has been then mastered by the Austrian guitarist Martin Siewert, granting an astonishing sound to our grateful ears, hearts and minds. The core of the recording is the 19-minute song that named the album, a Mongo Santamaria tune, delivered to the immortality by John Coltrane, the perfect paradigm of Gush’s music, described by Mats as “composed ideas, drone based structures with clear harmonic centers”. We could’ve been able to find a better claim. It's just imperative to add that, if the sax is already quintessentially Gustafsson, it deserves to be highlighted the terrific, colorful, with some Monk-esque nuances, piano of Sten Sandell, that sometimes is paving the way for the telluric Mats’ blasting screams but often is pouring himself nitroglycerin to the fire. Waiting for a better understanding if Gush will (hopefully) be fully back on the tracks, don’t miss such a beautiful piece of the infinite puzzle built along the years by this incredible musician, because, quoting him in the end, “NOW is the time. NOW is always the time. It is ALL about time. It is all about now...NOW”.


Martin Schray said...

Very nice review, Ferruccio. I enjoyed it a lot.

Ferruccio said...

Beeing a super fan of your reviews, you made my day, tks man!