The Thing, Action Jazz

Steve Smith

By Steve Smith

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A Norwegian trio that connects the dots between late-’60s free jazz, European improv and no-wave.

Like Chicago saxophonist Ken Vandermark, the Thing is all about connecting the dots between the spiritual ecstasy of late-'60s free jazz, the roiling fury of European improvisers like Evan Parker and Peter Br'ann and the spastic frenzy of no-wave rock. Action Jazz, the Scandinavian's trio's fourth album, opens with a cover of Norwegian garage-rock band Cato Salsa Experience's "Sounds Like a Sandwich" that's as much punk-rock blast as free-jazz blowout. And saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flåten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love sustain that intensity throughout this 49-minute set. The stair-stepping rhythms of Yosuke Yamashita's "Chiasma" demonstrate the trio's sharp reflexes. A subdued take on Ornette Coleman's melancholy ballad "Broken Shadows" crashes directly into the stuttering fury of Lightning Bolt's "Ride the Sky." The saxophonist wails and bellows like a wounded moose crashing through a junkyard in the collective improvisation "Better Living." But a medley of "The Nut" and "The Light" by Gustafsson's daughter, teenage punk star Alva Melin, prove that the Thing is just as impressive when it caresses a strong melody.