TARFALA TRIO | Mats Gustafsson | Barry Guy | Raymond Strid | SYZYGY | No Business Records

Mats Gustafsson – tenor sax and alto fluteophone | Barry Guy – bass | Raymond Strid – drums

Recorded 14th nov 2009 by Michael W. Huon at Belgie, Hasselt, Belgium.

Mixed and mastered by Michael W. Huon 2010. Produced by Tarfala Trio.

Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Executive production by Danas Mikailionis and Valerij Anosov


The TARFALA TRIO has its roots from 1992, meeting at the SOLO – 92 festival in Stockholm, Sweden. After that first encounter in 1992, the trio has worked sporadically and played festivals in Europe and releasing 2 Cds on Maya Recordings. This recording captures them playing live in Belgium, 2009. It is explosive, high energy loaded ferocious music focusing on low dynamic melodic material. Tarfala Trio is at their peak creating the most exciting improvised music you can hear today.

This is a double limited gatefold vinyl edition only, which, as a bonus, contains one-sided 7“ EP and a booklet of photos of the musicians playing live.

TARFALA TRIO | Mats Gustafsson | Barry Guy | Raymond Strid | SYZYGY | 2LP + one-sided 7“ EP | no business records

Drawing on the legacy of Albert Ayler’s

extraordinary trio LP Spiritual Unity, The Tarfala Trio, consisting of Mats Gustafsson on saxophones, Barry Guy on bass and Raymond Strid on drums and percussion take the notion of open-ended free jazz and make an impassioned statement that would certainly have made Ayler proud. Opening with “Broken by Fire,” the band sets the stage for their opening improvisation by probing at the edges of the music, before Gustafsson finds a path with ecstatic tenor saxophone supported by elastic bass and drums. Strong peals of saxophone run deep establishing the late-period Coltrane/Ayler influence as the music develops into a strong and potent force. Throttling back to a skittering bass and drums section, they develop a quiet form of improvisation, which begins to re-build gradually, before saxophone again develops gales of sound before slowing down to a quiet, spare finale. “Lapilli Fragments” sounds like quantum flux in musical space with notes and sounds popping in and out of existence. The seemingly random sounds coalesce into the (well named) fragments of melody and harmony as the music further develops. Bowed bass and light saxophone play with an against each other in open space, with scattered blasts to saxophone echoing against the interplay. “Cool in Flight” begins with open and exploratory quiet wisps of sound as bowed bass and saxophone swirl and sway. A quiet borderless atmosphere pervades the music here, before Gustafsson leads a charge with strong and emotional bursts of sound, urgently moving the music forward. The end the piece by gradually pulling back to the opening spacey feel. Light and agile percussion ushers in “Tephra” with the bells and raw saxophone developing a distinctive atmosphere. Raw and exciting saxophone and drums revolve around a rock solid bass pivot point, building into a deeper and stronger collective improvisation. Anxious sounding bowed bass and percussion open “Syzygy” before saxophone contributes reeling blasts and then lays out, creating nervous, uncomfortable silences and extraordinary dynamic tension. They resolve the tension by blasting into overdrive for a rousing conclusion. This band may dwell at the other end of the spectrum from mainstream jazz, but it suits them well. Developing a cascade of responses to the musical opportunities their creativity allows, they spin extraordinary improvisations out of the raw materials of heart, soul and spirit. — Tim Nilund

TARFALA TRIO | Mats Gustafsson | Barry Guy | Raymond Strid | SYZYGY | 2LP + one-sided 7“ EP | no business records

After two albums

on Maya, the super trio of Mats Gustafsson on tenor and alto fluteophone, Barry Guy on bass and Raymond Strid on drums, took on the name of the second album, “Tarfala”, and is touring Europe this summer. I unfortunately missed them when they came to Belgium in May, but the good thing is that we now get this fantastic double vinyl LP with 7″ EP and booklet, equally recorded in Belgium, two years ago, as a comforting substitution. Although it must be said that comfort is the last thing that crosses your mind and body, when listening to this fabulous trio. The trio creates a world of urgent little sounds, full of eager anticipation, surprise and fast response. There is hardly any volume, no screaming, no violence, just the dynamics of a mountain river, light, fast and crystal clear, moving forward without choice. How the currents will flow is unpredictable and chaotic, yet coherent and focused. At times the speed picks up, or slows down, …. but that’s where the metaphor meets its limits. Next to the dynamics, there are the emotions, no doubt the most hard to describe, and the most difficult aspect of the playing, and no doubt this trio’s strongest asset. Nobody in the world can scream like Gustafsson, in long heartrending wails, bringing the long built-up tension to a level or relief, or release, or increasing agony, depending on how you listen. Guy’s playing is as usual, oscillating between extreme precision and maverick madness, with Strid demonstrating the art of modern percussion, and critical to the overall sound, with little accents and colorings, yet equally driving the music forward when needed. And the three of them together … well that’s some kind of magic, moving you through a wide variety of sonic landscapes. In sum, a music of contrasts : raw and vulnerable, sensitive and harsh, coherent and adventurous, energetic and contained, yet full of incredible passion.– Stef

TARFALA TRIO | Mats Gustafsson | Barry Guy | Raymond Strid | SYZYGY | 2LP + one-sided 7“ EP | no business records

Double LP + EP version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)

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6 thoughts on “TARFALA TRIO | Mats Gustafsson | Barry Guy | Raymond Strid | SYZYGY | No Business Records

  1. If you’re interested in improvised music at all, you’re quite familiar with and possibly fond of all three musicians named above. No surprise really as they’re all about the most active and prolific masters of the improvised stage. And they prove so with this particular release that was recorded live in Belgium in 2009.

    A special package of the double LP + EP holds music that is intense and incredibly powerfull, most of the time on the verge of madness yet held together with incredibly focus and attention. Meandering through insane screams of passion, moments of encrypted sound labirynths and surprising melodicism. As it happens in the middle of “Broken by Fire” when small clicks, ticks of percussion fill the air, while, gradually, crazy shrieks of the saxophone and sharp sound of heavily bowed strings combine together, mesh, build up the tension, create the momentum, so that the ecstatic saxophone solo could cut through the dense texture. Until the eerie, cerebral coda with airy saxophone, delicate arco bass and soft mallets on bells, gongs and plates.

    4 sides of the LP stay for 4 extended pieces, each using up well the available space (all between 17:30 and 22:00). Four different journeys through dynamics, tempos, mood shifts. All free in spirit yet each controlled in a way, organically developed – there are always thousands of possible choices but the evolution happens only trough wise selection, even if it may seem random.

    This trio features three masterfull musicians that know how to coexist within the group, how to push both partners forward, without ever trying to overshadow them. They can do it all. I know the vinyl format limits the purchase target of this release but it’s easily recommended to any appreciator of what’s free and spontaneous in music.

  2. The Tarfala Trio is a hot avant trio commodity. It’s Mats Gustafsson, tenor and alto fluteophone (?), Barry Guy, acoustic bass, and Raymond Strid on drums. You might well know Matt via his association with Brotzmann’s Chicago Tentet. He is a blazing gamer and has big ears to shout or whisper as needed. Barry Guy is one of the premier new jazz bassists, of course, and can solo or play ensemble with his very own sound and inventive genius. Raymond Strid plays a damned fine set of drums and adds a great deal to the trio’s dynamic.

    They were fortunately caught live in Belgium for a date in 2009 when they were particularly inspired. The set has come out on two vinyl LPs and a bonus six-inch disk as Syzygy (New Business NBLP 35/36).

    Far be it for me to tell you what to do or think. I do suggest however that you check this one out if you can. It’s a limited edition of 600 records. And it’s to me one of the more creative and satisfying reed-bass-drum avant trio recordings of the year. Gustaffson flames and finesses; Guy throttles, tumbles and bows through the session with energy and musical reflexivity. Strid gives the sound leverage and drama with some well placed period-punctuating, thrashing and slapdashing.

    This is one for the record-books (collection)! They are hot and give it all they’ve got. Trust me, it’s a goodie!

  3. A quick glance at Wikipedia reveals a bewildering number of definitions of Syzygy, the name of the third offering from the Tarfala Trio, comprising English master bassist Barry Guy and the Swedish pairing of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and drummer Raymond Strid. Two meanings stand out as being particularly apt: the first, referring to a straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies; and the second, a term used by the psychiatrist Carl Jung to mean a union of opposites. While the former doesn’t need too much explanation given the illustrious back histories of Guy and Gustafsson in particular, the latter is not so obvious. But much of this sets strong appeal comes from the tension between those two poles: the cerebral machinations of the bassist contrasting with the earthy visceral bite of the reedman.

    Having first convened in 1992, the trio has only recently reactivated, with this concert recording from Belgium in November 2009 proving that there remains ample unexplored territory to justify resurrection. Spread over four expansive LP sides and a single sided 7″ EP, the three men cover an astonishing dynamic range, from blistering intensity to almost imperceptible timbral ping pong, wedding the passion of Albert Ayler to European improv.

    Gustafsson—mainly on tenor saxophone rather than his customary baritone—nonetheless discharges his insistent phrases in a deep gruff tone, fraying at the edge, always on the verge of erupting into vocalized screams. Between crescendos he matches Guy with plosive keypad popping and whimpering yelps, but also shows a tender side expressed in a subdued, world-weary lyricism, which comes as a cooling balm after all the pyrotechnics. Guy maintains momentum through a dizzying array of resonant twangs, koto-like plucking, and rasping abrasions, all delivered with a hyperactive swooping attack. One of the few criticisms is that it would be even better were Guy higher in the mix. Undergirding both are Strid’s klangfarben exercises, his tumbling outbursts sounding like someone emptying out a box of tools onto a wooden floor—rarely rhythmic, though occasional roiling.

    Each piece evokes the product of relaxed interplay between people who know where they are going but are less concerned by how or when they will arrive. After a series of peaks and troughs, “Broken By Fire” culminates in a meditative coda of bowed bass harmonics, tolling cymbals and breathy drawn out tenor melodicism, while “Lapilli Fragments” slowly accumulates density, before finishing in a lurching asymmetric pulse. However “Cool In Flight” is the pick of the set, featuring powerful free jazz spiced by a lengthy virtuosic bass solo. Most likely the encore, the title track, compresses an equivalent narrative arc into the space of six minutes, moving from the incremental addition of clattering percussion, arco swipes and skittering saxophone to flurries of activity, then a period of reflective calm before a final passage of screaming frenzy, an entire sonic universe in microcosm.

  4. Si l’entrée en matière est discrète, ce n’est pas qu’il faille à Mats Gustafsson faire preuve de prudence : le Tarfala Trio l’expose en effet depuis 1992 (sous ce nom) auprès de partenaires à qui il fait confiance : Barry Guy et Raymond Strid. C’est peut être davantage que la discrétion est permise en guise d’introduction, puisque le Tarfala a ici le temps de deux 33 tours augmenté de celui d’une face de 45. Sur celle-ci, trouver le morceau qui donne son titre à l’ensemble : SYZYGY.

    Autant commencer par là : SYZYGY est un microcosme d’improvisation compactant une somme fantastique d’emportements dans lequel Guy taille à l’archet des formes qui le réorganisent sans jamais le déranger. Le tout est ensuite de développer le thème sur deux grands disques. En concert à Hasselt en 2009, les membres du Tarfala prirent les traits d’expressifs apaisés. Ici, ils divaguent sur commandes ; là, laissent libre cours à une suite d’inventions individuelles ; ailleurs encore, s’adonnent de concert à des exercices de style (swing, ballade…) transformés à chaque fois en aires de récréation.

    Plus loin, les effets de Guy et Strid (archet harmonique, déboîtements soudains) mettent en action une machine à tisser des allusions suggestives qui déroutent Gustafsson : le ténor est sans cesse écarté de la rive d’où proviennent les promesses de confort des sirènes mélodiques – ailleurs qu’en Tarfala, faudra-t-il qu’il leur cède ? Le saxophoniste, de trouver alors dans ce rapport entre confiance et opposition le moyen d’inventer en baguenaudant. Ses phrases sont courtes et filées, les dérapages nombreux. Plus qu’une simple confiance puisque, l’âge aidant, le Tarfala Trio semble ne s’être jamais aussi bien porté.

  5. Sometimes one has to admit that, as much of a connection as free improvisation has with the heart of jazz — an approach to music and life that has its roots in spontaneity — it’s sometimes a bit of a tenuous relationship. European free improvisation has a lengthy history going back to the heady late 1960s, as musicians weaned on traditional jazz and bebop searched for ways to distance themselves from cultural-geographic implications quite different from broad European-ness. In places like Scandinavia, it was ironically the influence of African-American jazz musicians like Don Cherry and Albert Ayler, both resident in Sweden in the 1960s, that helped free up local musicians from American influence. Cherry’s effect on the Stockholm scene of the time — including saxophonists like Bernt Rosengren and Bengt “Frippe” Nordström, pianist Jan Wallgren, and itinerant Turkish drummer Okay Temiz and trumpeter Maffy Falay — cannot be underestimated.

    Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson studied with Nordström and also worked with veteran European heavies like Peter Brötzmann (Germany), Günter Christmann (Germany), and Sven-Åke Johansson (Sweden/Germany) throughout the 1980s and 1990s. At this point, he’s one of the leading lights of European free improvisation and has, through integrating it with a longtime interest and experience in punk rock and psychedelia, brought the music to a diverse stage. Lately, his collaborations seem to draw as much from the noise and art-rock end of the spectrum as they do improvised music and jazz, but that’s not to say his roots don’t often show.

    The Tarfala Trio is a cooperative venture that also features English contrabassist Barry Guy and fellow Swede, percussionist Raymond Strid (Gush, Too Much Too Soon Orchestra). With its roots going back to 1992, the group has gigged around Europe, including collaborations with pianists Sten Sandell and Marilyn Crispell, drummer Alvin Fielder, and saxophonist Kidd Jordan. Curiously, Syzygy is the trio’s second proper recording in nearly two decades of existence, featuring four sidelong improvisations on two slabs of heavyweight vinyl with the addition of a bonus 7-inch. In true Gustafsson “diskaholic” style, the package itself is absolutely stunning, housed in a heavyweight gatefold with a gorgeous LP-sized booklet of photos by Ziga Koritnik. The music was recorded live in Belgium in fine detail, making this a very high-end and honest document of European free music.

    With reputations for both full-bore freedom and rarefied insectile distance, it’s easy to forget that things like lyricism and delicacy are important, that players with as much pedigree as Gustafsson and Strid are capable of poetic statements. Part of this group’s penchant for simple give-and-take might be due to Guy’s presence. The bassist has been a significant figure on the landscape of creative music since 1967, and he shows no sign of letting up — “supple orchestration” could be his nom de plume. From the opening entreaties of “Broken by Fire,” the saxophonist’s tenor coagulations nod equally to Evan Parker and Albert Ayler, logical incisions that ultimately catapult in steely, go-for-broke exploration. Although a first-time listener might not know it, Gustafsson is almost reined-in here, dipping and shouting as he bunches, blats, and stretches out on newfound tightropes. Guy and Strid are absolutely nothing like Thing collaborators Ingebrigt Haker Flaten and Paal Nilssen-Love, rather constructing a lacy accenting thrum that’s constantly on the verge of disappearing. Constancy is, of course, the stock in trade of this rhythm section, ebbing and lapping cymbals enveloping the five-string filigree of Guy’s manhandled classicism. When Strid switches to a bevy of mallets and small objects, his phrases mirror Gustafsson’s flutter in beautiful succession; the three build tension expertly as Guy strums and swirls against breathy harmonics and eventual pulpit-pounding. The side closes with velvety, somber crooning, drawn arco and tapped gongs in huge, sweet counterpoint.

    The third side’s “Cool in Flight” begins as a duo for bass and tenor, recalling the excellent Guy-Gustafsson duo LP Sinners, Rather than Saints (No Business, 2009) with slap-tongue drawn into burred lines. Jamming mallets and objects into the strings, Guy’s pizzicato solo sounds more like a brutish take on prepared piano à la Juan Hidalgo or the Swedish guitar wizard Christian Munthe. As the saxophonist reenters and tries to find a matching cadence, it sounds more akin to a drunken clamber. But the trio’s empathy is borne out through steadfastness as“wrong-ish” notes and phrases become “right.” Dogged volleys are rhythmic through lungpower and athleticism, glossolalic screams granted a workmanlike search as Strid and Guy maintain a toe-tapping rigor. There’s a winsome quality to the bassist’s upper-register strums alongside Gustafsson’s simple closing phrases, which recall Archie Shepp’s protest-pastoral “There is a Balm in Gilead.” This performance alone is worth the price of the set.

    Taking two 20-minute slices out of an 85-minute set might seem disingenuous, but there’s so much music on offer here that giving it all away in platitudes seems more unfair. It’s worth noting again that a significant swath of Gustafsson’s work of the last several years has been wrapped in lung-busting machismo, tight t-shirts and wagging tongues alongside free-jazz covers of punk rock tunes. That music has its own attraction — outdoing PJ Harvey on “Who the Fuck,” for instance — but without denigrating the world-class improvisation that goes on in The Thing, Fire, and other groups, the Tarfala Trio embraces subtlety as much as it does the full-bore. There are snatches of jazz, or maybe the whole thing is “jazz,” depending on how open your definition of the music is — danger, excitement, love, and knowledge, where the only preordained structure is empathy.

  6. Saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and bassist Barry Guy are each celebrated for their membership in great trios tracing their inspiration to Albert Ayler’s 1964 band: Gustafsson for The Thing, Guy for his 30-year tenure in the Parker-Guy-Lytton Trio. They share membership in another trio: Tarfala with Swedish drummer Raymond Strid. The group first performed together in 1992 and since then have gathered sporadically, releasing two CDs on Guy’s Maya label – You Forgot to Answer, recorded in 1994-95 and Tarfala, 2006. Syzygy presents a 2009 concert from Belgium, released as a vinyl-only, limited-edition two-LP set with an additional EP. Named for Sweden’s Tarfala Glacier, the group might immediately suggest the sheer auditory power for which Gustafsson is known, almost a force of nature himself. But other natural analogies will suggest themselves for the trio’s music: it can be as delicately variegated as the leaves of a forest or light on water. Strid moves from dense rhythmic overlays to featherlight cymbal shadings and almost alarm-clock rolls; Guy, the fleetest of bassists, finds ways to combine lightning-fast runs with shifting timbres and a host of extended techniques that include ‘prepared’ bass, with multiple shifting bridges. The three can create the quietest atmospheric layerings, as in the introduction to “Cool in Flight” with Gustafsson creating key-pad rhythms, but the dialogue can also launch Gustafsson on heroic expressionist episodes, from roiling highspeed runs and skittering flights into the upper register to some glacially slow, wailing passages: at one point in “Tephra”, he vocalizes through his horn with sufficient passion to suggest a man playing Picasso’s “Guernica” on a tenor saxophone. Tarfala Trio may not be a well-known configuration, but when it gets together, it’s one of the great bands in free jazz.

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