Welcome to the second release in the Black Dot LP series. Black Dot albums are all recorded live at the White Spot performance space in beautiful downtown Nanaimo BC, a venue which Mats Gustafsson visited on June 23, 2019. Mats is many things to many people -- a doting father, a fancier of fine bourbons, an enthusiastic sport fisherman and a record collector of unparalleled passion. But he is probably best known as a musical performer/composer/explorer with world-gobbling intentions. On this evening in June, Mats was in extremely fine solo form.
Playing baritone sax, fluteophone and three “vinyl killer” record players (containing three copies of his own Hockey 10” on Gaffer), Mats began the evening with the sounds of tabletop hockey. The hockey sounds were courtesy of the “vinyl killers” (which look like Hot Wheels versions of VW mini-buses driving around a record), and this madness was soon intercut with insanely fleet breath manipulation on the baritone. Gustafsson is one of the few players (along Anthony Braxton, Peter Brotzmann and the late Hamiett Bluiett) who has managed to bend the baritone sax to his will. Even the tenor is a big horn, requiring some real meat/lung duality for successful wrangling, but the baritone is a monster. Although Mats handles it as though it were a baby otter (albeit a large baby otter.)
His click-stop playing shows he has darn nice tongue control, with grumbles of mutated melodic construction poking up and then hiding again, burrowing deep into the fabric of pure sound. As the set continues, the sax gets more aggressive -- inflating and inventing new strategies of sonic architecture, tearing up the air, sometimes inhabiting the so-called freak register like it was born there, at others playing melodies as though Coleman Hawkins' ghost was haunting its bell.
Sometimes when he's playing, Mats gets an expression on his face that suggests he's revisiting the entire history of jazz music (something I know he carries around in his head at all moments). And I suspect those spirits were visibly passing across his visage this night in British Columbia. Although he is revered as an avant-gardist, Gustafsson is much more than that. He embodies a tradition that connects all kinds of seemingly unrelated segments of the music, creating unexpected combinations of sound and technique that span a variety of theoretically unbridgeable gaps. The force of his playing and personality create a furnace in which everything must melt and combine." - Byron Coley