Correction with Mats Gustafsson | Shift | No Business Records

Mats Gustafsson – baritone sax | Sebastian Bergström – piano | Joacim Nyberg – bass | Emil Åstrand-Melin – drums

All compositions by Gustafsson (STIM), Bergström (STIM), Nyberg (STIM) & Åstrand-Melin (STIM). Recorded and mixed by Janne Hansson at Atlantis studio, Stockholm, on May 2 & 3, 2012. Mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Liner notes by Brian Morton. Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Produced by Correction & Mats Gustafsson. Exectutive producer – Danas Mikailionis. Co-producer – Valerij Anosov

Side A: 1. Looking up. Birds 2. Winters Within  3. Personal Note No.3

Side B: 1. Four Is a Sufficient Condition for Amendment  2. Correct This! 3. A New Ghost 4. SHIFT

The inmates riot in the House of Correction.

The girls who put up postcards in London telephone boxes – are telephone boxes used for anything else now? – offer correction among other delights. The ticker-tape in newspaper offices – also not much used now – hesitates on a story, flags CORRECTION, and adjusts the casualty figures up or down. We know what the word means, and what it means is somewhere on the pleasure/pain divide, somewhere between sticking to and breaking the rules, some measure of restraint coupled to a throwing over of all restraint.

And that brings us to Correction, the working name of Sebastian Bergström, Joacim Nyberg and Emil Åstrand-Melin, a ‘piano trio’ as far removed from the Jess Stacy or even Bill Evans model of piano trios as it is possible to imagine. Every generation brings along new terms of praise. Where Jess or Bill might have been described as ‘swinging’ or ‘flowing’, Correction are ‘immersive’ and perhaps even ‘assaultive’. This wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing if it were not for the group’s fierce discipline and for the underlying poetry of their supercharged performances. It might seem odd to settle on a literary comparison, but the impression I get from Correction – having seen them in performance a few times and having scoured the internet in preparation for this – is a pungent craft that makes me think, even more oddly, of that master of correction Jonathan Swift. He has a poem called, simply, ‘On Poetry’ that goes ‘Then, rising with Aurora’s light, / The Muse, invoked, sits down to write; / Blot out, correct, insert, refine, / Enlarge, diminish, interline’. Relevance? Very straightforward. You have to get up early and work hard to deal in chaos as confidently as Correction do. But more than that, they perform free jazz with the same guild sincerity as their collaborator here. Mats Gustafsson doesn’t come into this association like Gulliver in Lilliput. He comes in, as always, with a desire to make a contribution rather than to make a ‘guest star’’s mark. And Swift’s definition of the poetic process seems to me very accurate in relation to what Gustafsson and his Correction colleagues naturally do.

Jazz is a live art in a way that most other arts rarely are. Ironically, poetry is one area of occasional exception. The English Metaphysicals perfected the art of the ‘reinvented poem’, a piece of text which includes its own CORRECTION markers, where an image is tried, found, wanting and set aside (but not deleted). This is the jazz man’s art as well. A phrase is shaped. It’s a beautiful phrase, but perhaps too craggy or too light. So another is found. Or something that gives the phrase the balance it needs comes up later and is retrospectively interlined. Creating a solo, or a group performance, or a poem: there are clear similarities.

The Metaphysicals were interesting because they left the working out on the page. They weren’t quite prepared to scratch a partial thought, because thought and its progress was part of what they were about. Blotting out wasn’t part of it. Listen to Bergström, though, and you find fascinating examples of improvisation that rigorously self-cancels as it goes along, overwriting one rhythmic figure with another, one fast run of notes overlaid on the previous one. Åstrand-Melin does something similar. He has the ability to build a weighty metre out of heavy floor sounds and clipped metal effects, but then to come off it so fast it’s still there in the mind as the next line comes in. Joacim Nyberg likewise. He sometimes lifts that bass free of the ground as if he were pulling up mandrakes, punctuating his own improvisations with sudden lacunae as startling as a car going over a bridge at speed. Mixed metaphors? Maybe, but that was another legacy of the Metaphysicals, the freedom to think of anything in terms of something else and to live comfortably with the jarring mismatch.

The point is that Correction are constantly alert to the flow and the sound of the music. One doesn’t get the sense with these guys of what some critics called Bill Evans’s ‘state of grace’, his out-of-body absorption in music so carefully worked through and ‘rehearsed’ it was second nature, in the same way that his trio colleagues were second, and third selves. Correction doesn’t work like that, and Mats Gustafsson certainly doesn’t work like that. The music here is neither ‘thoughtful’ in the chamber-jazz sense, nor ‘thought-filled’ in the sense of music in love with its own cleverness. It is in its essence of process of thought, most of it carried out with the fingers rather than left-side abstraction. Gustafsson is constantly alert to what his partners are doing. He plays for the group, enlarges, diminishes (and his ability to manage those extremes is only matched by the great Peter Brötzmann), refines an idea, inserts its dark twin, erases the whole lot with a black-toned blast and starts again.

If this is a process that happens ‘in the moment’, it might be thought that it belongs only in the moment, that the working out isn’t something one would want to repeat. The argument about documenting improvised music is now (surely?) pretty much settled. The apparent hierarchy of ‘live’ and recorded music is every bit as illusory as the hierarchy of oral over written communication. They are different. Neither is superior. Neither is necessarily prior. Listening to Gustafsson with Correction just once would be an exhilaration, but its subtleties and the sources of its power would be hard to retain and reconstruct. In its recorded form, it’s possible to follow the course of an idea from first appearance to climax or ultimate rejection, to reiterate the emergence of a groove. This is music that satisfies intellectually as well as viscerally. Its greatest satisfaction is that it is the product not just of inspiration by the Muse but of group interaction and exchange.

Swift’s Gulliver made other voyages, of course, and enough to show that all our cultural standards are relative and subject to sudden reversals of emphasis. It doesn’t much matter whether you consider ‘jazz’ to be the music of Houyhnhnms or Yahoos (this is the country Gulliver visited three hundred years ago, in 1712 and 1713), or the aery product of Laputa, where cross-grained strangeness reigns. What does matter is that in a field of music increasingly populated by Lilliputians, these guys are giants. — Brian Morton


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5 thoughts on “Correction with Mats Gustafsson | Shift | No Business Records

  1. Hi my name is Patrik Sandberg, writer for swedish jazzmag.Orkesterjournalen. I need compl.playtime for the vinyl Shift album, because i will publish my reiew in the forthcoming number of OJ.Are there other new reviewcopies coming you can sent to. Orkesterjournalen, Hornsg.103 , 117 28 Sthlm. Best Patrik OJ

  2. L’idée est bien celle d’une mise au point nécessaire, commandée par un retour de Mats Gustafsson à un jazz sémillant – comprendre à un « retour à l’ordre » ? Après quelques expériences bruitistes, pour beaucoup réussies, repli donc vers la ligne claire à l’invitation de Correction – soit : Sebastian Bergström (piano), Joacim Nyberg (contrebasse) et Emil Åstrand-Melin (battrie).

    Hélas, le piano brille jusqu’en son for intérieur – cordes mollement chatouillées quand Bergström s’y porte en-dedans – et multiplie (ô combien) les notes sans jamais rien déranger de la Face A. A peine mieux ensuite : le même jouant les accompagnateurs d’un baryton qui tire l’association à lui – certes, avec force. La correction n’est pas suffisante : on n’y voit rien qui vaille, voire point, et ce des lointains contours à l’introuvable noyau.

  3. Having co-opted reed iconoclast Mats Gustafsson to pen the enthusiastic liners for their prosaically-named Two Nights in April (Ayler Records, 2010), young Swedish trio Correction goes one better on Shift by persuading their countryman to actually participate in the session. Over its five year existence, the threesome of pianist Sebastian Bergstrom, bassist Joacim Nyberg and drummer Emil Astrand-Melin has forged a cohesive group identity, built on freedom within a recognizably modern jazz idiom. Gustafsson convinces as the perfect guest, adding energetic saxophone stylings to their driving structures.

    In terms of references, Portugal’s acclaimed RED Trio comes to mind, although Correction is if anything more muscular in its angular attack. Bergström proves a percussive pianist, often dampening the strings, to unleash insistent gamelan like patterns. But his inspirations range widely, as his avant funk gooses the reedman’s abrasive baritone on the opening “Looking up. Birds,” while his chordal promptings take on a Latin feel on “Winters Within.” Åstrand-Melin contributes a distinctive dry tonality, reminiscent of Milford Graves, accentuated by his minimal use of cymbals, which meshes well with Nyberg’s woody propulsion. Even in the improv-orientated “Correct This!” they still conspire to maintain a pulse.

    Each of the seven pieces unfolds in the moment, the product of egalitarian interplay in which solos emerge organically as the limelight shifts easily around the group. Gustafsson plays a leading role: “Personal Note No.3” begins with the saxophonist matching the drums in explosive bursts. That same combination ends the nervy momentum of “Four Is a Sufficient Condition for Amendment” in a stop/start stutter. While all the preceding cuts might be excerpts from a single extended recital, the title track offers a striking contrast: a spare ballad graced by breathily ruminatively baritone, creating a strong but atypical close to the album. On this showing Correction will be a name to follow for many years to come.

  4. We are lucky that there is no shortage of excellent avant jazz out there today, all over the world, those of us who follow and appreciate the global new. I have another for you this morning. It’s Correction with Mats Gustafsson and their limited-edition LP Shift (No Business NBLP 59).

    Mats is on baritone, Sebastian Bergstrom, piano, Joacim Nyberg on bass, and Emil Astrand-Melin on drums. It’s an extraordinarily game-sounding quartet on a post-bop-free good blowing date.

    Mats has fire and finesse, Sebastian has a kind of post-Bley hard-charging attack, Joacim can walk out the window with it all and give you a solo that makes your ears perk up, and Emil gives it all that freetime, time-time push.

    This is top-of-the-line outness. If you don’t know these four well, Shift is the one to get. Since there is a limited pressing of 500 LPs, now is the time!

  5. In Gaito Gazdanov’s marvelous novel “The Spectre of Alexander Wolf” there is a crucial scene in which the narrator contemplates his future lover Jelena Nikolajewna and wonders about her disharmonic physiognomy which he considers as almost deformed. But then she starts smiling and immediately there is an expression of warmth and a sensual charm which makes her appear in a completely new light. Out of the blue he is drunk from her presence and the longer he looks at her he feels that he is helpless against this emotion, he has lost any form of control. He closes his eyes and notices an opaqueness of his senses, for the first time in his life he perceives an inexplicable oneness of pure emotional and physical sentiment flooding his whole conscience, literally everything, even the remotest muscle in his body.

    There is a similar sensation when you listen to “Shift” by The Correction with Mats Gustafsson. After the first six tracks you might wonder if the strange combination of the piano trio with the free jazz saxophone colossus fits (or not) but then you hear the title track, the last one on the album, and everything is different, the whole album is not the same anymore, there is the same inexplicable oneness the narrator in the novel feels.

    My expectations were high when rumors were spread that Gustafsson was going to release an album with his fellow countrymen because in the liner notes to one of their former albums he said that he had “heard only a few new groups with this extremely generous, humble, and still very defined group activity”. But in spite of their mutual appreciation they are not an obvious match made in heaven. The Correction (Sebastian Bergström on piano, Joacim Nyberg on bass and Emil Åstrand-Melin on drums) is a very versatile band, they play almost everything from abstract minimalism, Monk-ish phrases and free jazz clusters that remind of Cecil Taylor’s seminal Feel Trio to poetic lyrical – and even swinging – textures which positions them close to bands like Craig Taborn’s trio with Thomas Morgan and Gerald Cleaver.

    You can hear this in “Looking up. Birds” in which the band prepares a simmering stew of rolling bass lines, hard bop piano chords and staccato drum barrage which is augmented by Gustafsson’s wild R’n’B honks. Sometimes they sound like the Schlippenbach Quartet (“Four is a Sufficient Condition for Amendment”, “Correct This!”), sometimes like a new classical chamber music ensemble (the beginning of “Winters Within”) before the album closes with “Shift”, this incredibly dark and beautiful film-noir-goes-David-Lynch ballad that puts all these tracks in a different perspective. And suddenly there is true coherence in everything that might have sounded inconsistent before, there is a meaning in all the abrasive and fragmentary sounds, there is beauty underneath all that.

    “Shift” is not an easy album indeed. Above all, it is definitely not a typical Gustafsson album (like the ones with Fire! or The Thing or his latest solo recordings). It needs several attempts to reveal its true nature but then it rewards the listener with hidden qualities and unusual structures.

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