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How to Raise an Ox

Zu vs. Mats Gustafsson

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Album Review

This is truly frightening music. Zu are an Italian trio famous for their collaborations with Eugene Chadbourne and Spaceways Incorporated. They play a gritty, aggressive meld of free jazz, rock, and funk. Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson is known for his signature bleating tone, his compositions, and his ability to play with almost anybody. Put them together and what you have is a romp, something so wild, wooly, and downright spine-tingling, you'd think you were in a sonic no-man's-land that was equal parts heaven and hell. Recorded in a Roman studio, this set of nine confrontations — because that's indeed what they are — features a pair of baritone saxophonists, electric bass, and drums; there is little free jazz, little free improvisation noodling. If it shows up at all, as it does at the end of "Eating the Landscape," and the beginning of "The King Devours His Sons," it's short-lived and used merely as a way of breaking into something wholly other, wholly ugly, wholly terrifying. This is bleating, kill-your-ox-slowly music; it kicks, screams, punches, and fights to the death, exhausting both players and listeners alike. Never has such an ugly beauty of a free-for-all sounded so appealing, so dynamic, so completely, mind-numbingly delightful. How to Raise an Ox should have been called "How to Kill and Torture Your Ox Without Mercy." Since there has been nothing like it since Last Exit, it's irresistible, addictive, and perhaps even evil!

Biography

Born: 29 October 1964 in Umea, Sweden

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Swedish reeds player and improviser Mats Gustafsson's extended saxophone techniques draw equally from the fiery free jazz blowing tradition and the European microtonal schools. Born in 1964 in the culturally rich area of Umeå, he was exposed at a young age to various Swedish improvisers such as saxophonist Lars Göran Ulander and pianist Per Henrik Wallin. His first instrument was the flute, but by his early teens Gustafsson was playing saxophone as well. Around the age of 14, he put his saxophone...
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How to Raise an Ox, Mats Gustafsson
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