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The Thing: Shake [Digipak] *

Track List

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Album Notes

The Thing keeps rolling all night long. The Swedish power trio features saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, all restless musicians/composers who got together to form a Don Cherry recording project back in 1999. Since that time, they have redefined the parameters of the saxophone trio. From their sparse, spacious self-titled album in 2001, they have been an intensely interrogative, rhythmically propulsive, and -- if you listen for it -- harmonically engaging ensemble. On later records -- 2004's Garage for instance -- they covered tracks by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the White Stripes, and Peter Brötzmann. Released in 2009, Bag It offered compositions by Albert Ayler, Duke Ellington, and anarcho-punk ensemble the Ex alongside originals. Their collaborative offerings, 2011's Shinjuku Crawl with Otomo Yoshihide, 2013's Cherry Thing with Neneh Cherry, and 2014's Live with Thurston Moore, only expanded their popularity. Shake! returns the trio to doing its own thing. The set opener, "Viking Disco/Perfection," is a medley of a Nilssen-Love original and a classic Ornette Coleman tune. It's where the band's penchant for aggressive yet mindful skronk meets twisted, funky grooves. The drummer's constant cymbal ride is the only grounding element -- even as Håker Flaten and Gustafsson roil together in slippery, recognizable melodies. This trio's rhythmic gifts are showcased on an all-too-brief reading of Loop's "The Nail Will Burn." Gustafsson and Håker Flaten provide the pulse while Nilssen-Love commences with a clattering solo that never forsakes the inherent groove. The trio expands to a quintet on Gustafsson's "Aim," with alto saxophonist Anna Hogberg and Goran Kajfes on cornet. Based on a simple six-note vamp, the hypnotic intro gives way to a complete communion of collective improvisation before stripping itself back to a skeletal whisper of its theme. Another cover here is a noir-ish, elegant read of outsider folk artist Wyrd Visions' (Colin Bergh) "Sigill." Håker Flaten's melodic ballad "Til Jord Er du Kommet" closes the recording with the realization that these three men write to one another's strengths. Gustafsson's most restrained playing asserts itself over elegant brushwork by Nilssen-Love and the bassist's relatively sparse timekeeping. Even here, however, the elements of intimate improvisational conversation assert themselves. Mostly though, Shake! is full of nasty grooves, unhinged playing, and rhythmic intensity. This is free jazz-funk for those who insist on an identifiable center in avant music. The Thing are masters at this and, as a result, can always push further into sound and song and a nearly danceable collective conversation. ~ Thom Jurek



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