Standardization is a thing of the past when it comes to recorded music and listeners who get too far ahead of or behind the curve are likely to miss interesting sounds. Just as the production of movies didn’t cease with the acceptance of television, so the manufacture of LPs continued even as the CD became the format of the moment. As artisans continue to craft fine furniture despite the availability of mass-produced items, so too LPs are being created in limited quantities. This situation appears tailor-made for experimental sounds. Similarly since advanced players are often as impecunious as they are inventive, the ubiquity of the Internet means that some music is only sold through the Web. The option of not having to create a physical product is a boon for non-mainstream performers.

Probably the most spectacular recent example of vinyl-only releases is Just Not Cricket: Three Days of Improvised Music in Berlin Ni-Vu-Ni-Connu nvnc lp001/004. A four-LP set pressed on 180 gram virgin vinyl, the box set also includes a copy of the festival’s lavishly illustrated full-color program plus a 20-page, LP-sized booklet featuring black and white photographs from the event, an essay about Free Music, plus a transcribed conversation with the 16 British artists who participated. As much an artifact as a musical keepsake, Just Not Cricket showcases many of BritImprov’s most important players. With cast of characters ranging from Free Music pioneers such as saxophonist Trevor Watts and percussionist Eddie PrĂ©vost to younger stylists including trumpeter Tom Arthurs and saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, plus representation of the so-called Second Wave such as pianist Steve Beresford and harpist Rhodri Davies, the selection is all-embracing as well as varied. There’s high-quality music represented by all three groups. PrĂ©vost’s duet with saxophonist Lol Coxhill for instance demonstrates that by maintain the proper pulse, an atonal reed and percussion duet can suggest Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa while still outputting kazoo-like blats and scattered drum pumps. Energetic and atonal, a blow-out featuring players such as Arthurs, Hutchings, guitarist Alex Ward, bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders is invested with Free Jazz energy. Yet among the freak brassy triplets, saxophone honks and near slack-key guitar lines, Ward’s comping, Edwards’ robust bowing and Sanders perfectly timed accents turn bluster to satisfying sonic alliances. There are also elements of humor, most apparent the moment Beresford’s slick keyboard glissandi turn to kinetic smacks and splashes replicating both bebop and lounge piano playing, as Edwards’ pumps and trombonist Gail Brand’s wide snorts and flutters add a layer of laughing euphoria to this trio interaction. Other highlights include bass saxophonist Tony Bevan using his widening cavernous resonations to create perfect counterpoint to the rhythms from dual bassist Edwards and Dominic Lash; while on another track, Watts’ splintering alto saxophone intensity is brought to a higher level as horizontal sticks vibrations among Davies’ harp strings and Orphy Robinson’s ringing vibraphone licks produce more polyrhythms than would be found in an orchestra’s percussion section.

A quintet of Scandinavian musicians, Erik Carlsson & All Stars use an even more venerable configuration for their recreation of so called Swedish [j]azz of the 1950s and 1960s: the 10 inch LP. The appeal of these one-track-per-side performances on this two-LP set is how the players stay true to the pieces pop-bop origins while retrofitting (post) modern sequences. A tune such as the folksy Du GlĂ€djerika Skona is propelled by subtle emphasis from Kjell Nordeson’s vibes plus snorting flutters from Mats Gustafsson’s baritone saxophone and vibrating puffs Per-Åke Holmlander’s tuba until near tactile clatters and scratches sourced from Dieb13’s turntables roguishly interrupts the proceedings. Similarly a treatment of Umepolskan & Nybyggarland links the variable speeds of Nordeson’s motor-driven instrument with Dieb13’s sampled aviary squawks and trills until basso saxophone burps introduce a waltz-like turn around played straight with supple mallet clicks and rat-tat-tat drumming from Carlsson. Finally the tune exits as contest between Gustafsson’s barking reed lines and the initial theme propelled by vibes and tuba.

Moving ahead a half century to the second decade of the 21st, and preserved on a far different medium are concerts recorded at an music festival in Rimouski, Quebec only available for download. The slyly titled Invisible Tour de Bras DL #1 captures an intense interaction among German analog synthesiser player Thomas Lehn, Montreal percussionist Michel F. CĂŽtĂ© and local electric bassist, Éric Normand. Lehn is also present on Sources Tour de Bras DL #2 but here his playing partner is Montreal-based, American violinist Malcolm Goldstein. Most of Invisible’s 36 minutes is concerned with understated crackles, cackles and clacks, with none of the players outputting expected timbres. Still a climax of sorts is reached at mid-point, after a klaxon-like blat, likely from CĂŽtĂ© noisemakers, cuts through the waves of tripartite soundscapes, presaging emphasized percussion thumps, distorted bass flanges and sweeping oscillations from the synthesizer. Following a prolonged silence, the single track’s latter half is more distant and melancholy with intermittent milk-bottle like pops and door-stopper-like quivers, bass string sluices and jittery synthesizer pulsations fading to obtuse squeaks. With Goldstein’s so-called classical techniques on show, Sources is a stimulating sashay between two masterful improvisers as the fiddler’s staccato and strident scrubs and stops bring out the humanness of Lehn’s machinery. With bubbling hoedown-like slides, flying spiccato plus multiple jetes sounding concurrently, Goldstein coaxes lightening quick responses from Lehn, which take the form of thick tremolo modulations and grinding processed vamps. Flamboyant enough to intimate a passionate middle sequence studded with stops and strums, the violinist’s exposition eventually blends with the synthesizer player’s processed drones and ring-modular-like flanges to create a conclusion enlivened by Lehn’s unexpected piano-like keyboard expression and staccato string stops.

Turning on its head McLuhan’s dictum that the medium is the message, these projects prove that exceptional messages can appear in any medium.

— Ken Waxmann (


That Mats Gustafsson can operate in a quite different mode was proven by the performance of his group Swedish Azz with Per–Åke Holmlander on tuba and especially cimbasso, Kjell Nordeson on vibraphone, Erik Carlsson on drums and Dieb 13, electronics and turntables. The group whose name is a conflation of ‘ace’, ‘ass’ and ‘jazz’ delivered a musical masterpiece of dialectical collage art celebrating legendary Swedish jazz pioneers from the 50s and 60s as baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin, bassist Georg Riedel and pianists/composers Jan Johansson and Lars Werner.

Aided by Gustafsson’s background narratives about Pippi Longstockings tunes and other matters fuelling the audience’s imagination flashes of the original tunes/sounds played live or sophisticatedly infused by Dieb 13 on his turntables. Together with brief truncated comments, free excursions and noise dusts all were intriguingly collaged, and enlivened by the vital, strong and beautiful playing of all musicians, especially Nordeson on vibraphone and Holmlander on cimbasso, an instrument with a special sound projection in the range of contrabass trombone and tuba. The awesome soloing, neatly embedded in the overall structure, made it a still richer affair. Erik Carlsson delivered one of the most remarkable drum solos I have experienced for a very long while. The performance was both a prudently filtered and convincingly projected tribute to the old tunes and musicians and a fairly stretched transformation of the “old stuff”.


Rita Draper FrazĂŁo dis a review with very nice drawings about swedish azz in lissabon (August 2015)

The Swedish azz record ‘azz appeal’ was elected third best jazz record of 2011 by the biggest Swedish national newspaper Dagens Nyheter:
3 Frijazz. Swedish Azz: ”Azz appeal”. (Not Two/ Mats Gustafsson med mannar sĂ€tter tĂ€nderna i vad som brukar kallas den svenska jazzens guldĂ„lder som om den vore en blodig biff.

Dagens Nyheter – Johannes Cornell – Best records of 2011


Jag befinner mig pĂ„ musikantikvariatet Pennies from heaven en torsdag i november. DĂ€r springer jag pĂ„ Mats Gustafsson som i samband med en konsert i Göteborg grĂ€ver efter vinyl för att finna inspiration till Swedish Azz, ett projekt som han startat med Per-Åke Holmlander. IdĂ©en Ă€r att hylla svensk jazz frĂ„n 50- och 60-talen. Musik som kan vara bortglömd, eller, i vissa fall, alldeles för sjĂ€lvklar, som de vĂ€lkĂ€nda lĂ„tarna av Jan Johansson och Lars Gullin.

Ett intressant koncept som övertrÀffar alla förvÀntningar. Gustafsson (saxofoner, liveelektronik), Holmlander (tuba, cimbasso), Eric Carlsson (trummor), dieb13 (skivspelare) och den makalösa vibrafonisten Jason Adasiewicz (som vikarierar för Kjell Nordeson) respekterar originalmusiken, men skruvar till det nÄgra varv, pÄ ett förbluffande vitalt sÀtt. Dessutom bjuder de in musiker som varit betydelsefulla för svensk jazz, i Stockholm bland annat Georg Riedel, i Göteborg var saxofonisterna Gunnar Lindgren och Gilbert Holmström hedersgÀster efter pausen.

Adasiewicz lÄnga intro till Bo Nilssons Lidingö airport slÄr allt jag hört med en vibrafon. Erik Carlsson imponerar stort bakom trummorna, pÄ bland annat Börje Fredrikssons fina MÀster. Holmlander kan variera en melodi, en rytm, med tuban i det oÀndliga. Mats Gustafsson attackerar emellanÄt med noise och ylande saxhugg. Men det Àr för att skaka om musiken, ge den en puff in i nuet. Och han spelar med stor melodisk kÀnsla, i lÄtar av Lars FÀrnlöf, Jan Johansson och Berndt Egerbladh. dieb13 Àr en udda figur i sammanhanget, en turntableartist, som hittar ovÀntade nyanser, stökar, men sysslar mycket med finlir.

Det typiskt svenska betonas, kastas runt, med lika delar lekfullhet och allvar. PĂ„ Jag vet en dejlig rosa – med Gunnar Lindgren pĂ„ saxofon – tar de en ursvensk melodi och strĂ€cker ut den ungefĂ€r pĂ„ samma sĂ€tt som nĂ€r Albert Ayler stöpte om gammal New Orleans-jazz. Det mest experimentella stycket var FĂ„glarna, en grafisk komposition signerad Gilbert Holmström, som skrevs 1966, men nu framfördes för andra gĂ„ngen.

Det Àr precis sÄ hÀr man skall levandegöra historien.

PM Jönsson –



I GrĂŒnewaldsalen upptrĂ€dde kvintetten Swedish azz. Den stĂ€ndigt nyfikne improvisatören och saxofonisten Mats Gustafsson Ă€r tillsammans med Per-Åke Holmlander pĂ„ tuba frontfigurerna i detta nya projekt. Med sig pĂ„ scenen hade de Eric Carlsson pĂ„ trummor, Kjell Nordeson pĂ„ vibrafon och österrikaren Dieter Kovacis – Dieb13 pĂ„ elektronik och skivspelare. LĂ„tar frĂ„n svenska jazzens guldĂ„lder frĂ„n 50- och 60-talen tolkades, med musik av namn som Per Henrik Wallin, Lars Gullin, Jan Johansson och Lars Werner pĂ„ repertoaren. Vi fick bland annat avnjuta en fantastisk version av Lars Werners Drottningholm Ballad frĂ„n 1959 (frĂ„n LP:n Bombastica, dĂ„ med Bernt Rosengren pĂ„ sax). Harmoniken och delar av melodin var igenkĂ€nnbara medan rytmen och instrumenteringen i stort sett försvann. LikasĂ„ Lars Gullins Silhouette frĂ„n 1957 bröts ner efter igenkĂ€nnbart intro och byggdes upp med nytt ljud och ny klangbild. Vi fick Ă€ven höra nĂ„gra toner ur temat för tv-klassikern Karl-Bertil Jonssons Julafton som Gunnar Svensson skrev musiken till. FrĂ€ckt, innovativt, ovĂ€ntat och med en stor dos konstnĂ€rlig nerv framfördes denna spektakulĂ€ra nytolkning av svenska jazzklassiker. GrĂ€nslös nyfikenhet om man sĂ„ vill.

Recension – Orkesterjournalen – Patrik Sandberg – 2010-05-03



Med gruppen Swedish azz tar saxofonisten Mats Gustafsson och tubaisten Per-Åke Holmlander respektfullt hand om arvet efter giganterna Lars Gullin och Lars Werner. Styrkan i denna elvatums-vinyl, inspelad pĂ„ Fasching 2008, ligger i att kvintetten gör musiken till sin egen. En favorit Ă€r Werners Drottningholm ballad dĂ€r den mjuka melodin med Ă„lderns rĂ€tt fĂ„r Ă„teruppstĂ„ ur en nedskitad elektronisk mylla. Som smygande skuggor rör sig sedan egenskapade loopar frĂ„n Dieb13:s skivspelare i Gullins drömska Silhouette. LĂ€gg dĂ€rtill Kjell Nordesons fina vibrafon och Erik Carlssons Ă„terhĂ„lla slagverk och mixen blir mycket intressant.

Svenska Dagbladet – Magnus Nygren – 2010-04-14


Swedish Azz, Vienna Echoraum, 28 February 2010
By viennesewaltz

Fascinating and highly unusual evening of not-quite-free jazz from ace Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, three of his fellow countrymen and Viennese ringer Dieter Kovacic. The deal here is a contemporary take on Swedish jazz of the 50s and 60s, transplanting that music’s strong melodic lines and sense of lyricism into the context of improvisation and electronic soundscaping. It could have ended up as a right old mess, but in the event it was a thoroughly convincing performance, due in no small part to the exhilarating urgency of Gustafsson’s saxophone work.

In marked contrast to the long, sweeping improvs we normally see from Gustafsson, these pieces were short, tightly focused and – at least in part – notated. The saxophonist took the trouble to introduce each piece, carefully and humorously introducing the composer and his place in the history of Swedish jazz. It was clear that the group love this music and were there, more than anything else, to pay homage to it.

Judging by the intentness with which Gustafsson, tuba player Per-Åke Holmlander and vibraphone player Kjell Nordeson were studying their music stands, the notated elements were important to the overall structure of each piece. As a result, the pieces tended to begin steadily, with the warm tones of the vibraphone bringing colour and light into the room. It wasn’t ever long, though, before the group ceased to rely on their sheet music and ventured into the realm of pure improvisation, with Gustafsson’s sax playing as wild and torrential as it is in The Thing and Sonore. Taking the occasional break from this vein-bursting activity, he manipulated various bits of table-top electronics to produce clouds of unforgiving noise. Kovacic’s own interventions on turntable and electronics unfolded slowly and unnervingly, while Nordeson’s vibraphone weaved miraculous patterns around this stormy weather.

I still don’t get the point of that missing J, though.


The album has the look and feel of a jazz album of the fifties : a vinyl production, the size of a 78 rpm disk (but played at 33 rpm), including the great stylish artwork and back cover reminiscent of the period. The music is a celebration of the Swedish jazz masters of the 50s, who were quite influenced by the cool West Coast jazz. The album contains three compositions, one by pianist Lars Werner and two by baritone saxophonist Lars Gullin.

Their music is played first reverently, with full melody and rhythm, but then the band shifts the whole thing into a modern package, including live electronics.

The band is Mats Gustafsson on alto, baritone saxes and live electronics, Kjell Nordeson on vibraphone, dieb13 on turntables, Per-Ake Holmlander on tuba and cimbasso, and Erik Carlsson on drums and selected percussion.

The first piece, “Drottningholm Ballad” starts like a slow ballroom dance, with repetitive melody, all sweet and nice, then it turns into a kind of nightmarish noise context. The second piece, “Danny’s Dream” has the opposite structure : out of noise and unrelated sounds, the melody arises, followed by the rhythm, then the whole thing fizzles away at the end.

“Silhouette”, the last piece, again starts with weird sounds, piercing sometimes, out of which the beautiful and sweet melody emerges, played by Gustafsson and Nordeson, wonderfully capturing the sound of the times, albeit hesitant and with a question mark, including the gimmicky repetition as if the needle got stuck somewhere in the middle of the piece, before the electronics take over completely, dark and gloomy, yet it ends again with sax and vibes playing the theme, all soft and sweet.

I am not an electronics fan, but it works in this context : the open and free interpretation of the music, together with the noise element creates a great contrast and tension with the original material, which is by definition part of the fifties’ vision of the unencumbered, optimistic and worriless lifestyle of affluence and personal enjoyment. The more critical, more pessimistic and world-conscious attitude of today’s musicians works as great counterweight to the original attitude. Yet the great thing is that they do not destroy the original, quite to the contrary, they lift it to a higher, contemporary level.

From: Stef at


Le dimanche de la vie (Hegel, Queneau) c’est le rĂȘve de la fin de l’histoire, assumĂ© sous forme d’Ă©ternelle jouissance des choses de l’esprit, et donc de la mort de l’Art, remplacĂ© par l’esthĂ©tique. “L’Art est mort, l’Ăąge de l’esthĂ©tique est venu”. Swedish Azz, comme tant d’autres formations aujourd’hui, s’inscrit dans cette lecture de l’histoire du jazz : le jazz est mort, l’Ăąge de sa cĂ©lĂ©bration est arrivĂ©, cĂ©lĂ©brons donc sa fin et sa renaissance, chaque jour. Ici, il s’agit du jazz suĂ©dois, rejouĂ©, dĂ©jouĂ©, magnifiĂ©, ironisĂ©, dĂ©chantĂ©, dĂ©jantĂ©, transformĂ©. Et de quelle façon ! Exactement avec la distance qui sied Ă  l’amour. Ni trop prĂšs, dans une fascination duelle qui ne permettrait que la reproduction, ni trop loin, dans un Ă©loignement qui finirait par Ă©mousser le dĂ©sir. Mats Gustafsson mĂšne les dĂ©bats avec flamme, et une intelligence confondante : drĂŽle mais jamais moqueur, c’est un tireur de langue, Mats. On a du lui dire, quand il Ă©tait petit, que ça ne se faisait pas. Alors du coup, et mĂȘme quand il ne va pas emboucher son baryton, il tire la langue. A ses cĂŽtĂ©s, imperturbable, Per-Ake Holmlander fait rĂ©sonner les graves de son tuba ou de son Ă©trange trombone-basse coudĂ©. A cette paire de sons des profondeurs rĂ©pondent les aigus du vibraphone, les stridences des sons Ă©lectroniques, les chuintements des platines. Le jazz suĂ©dois des annĂ©es 50/60 (on connaĂźt mal, mais quand mĂȘme, Lars Gullin, Jan Johansson…) est ainsi totalement restituĂ© sans ĂȘtre reproduit, c’est trĂšs subtilement fait, jamais systĂ©matique, toujours inventif. Un grand moment de vraie libertĂ© (“ironie, vraie libertĂ©”, disait Proudhon).