FIRE! — Fire! Orchestra : Exit! (review)

FIRE! — Fire! Orchestra : Exit! album cover Album · 2013 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
snobb
Swedish sax player Mats Gustafsson is a household name in the local alternative scene, and his countless projects represent a wide range of jazz-related alternative music from the scratchy punk-jazz of The Thing, to "out" solo improvs and free-form duos with English bassist Barry Guy, as well as others. Last year (2012), when his Norwegian-Swedish trio The Thing released an album with r'n'b/hip hop vocalist and Don Cherry step-daughter Nenah Cherry, it almost sounded like a joke - but only on the first spin. Catchy RnB songs supported by a rocking/free-jazz trio were strange, but an attractive mix which received good media and listener attention.

All of that looked like a one-night adventure until the end of this January when Mats continued the same concept of adding guests to his groups, but with a much more ambitious project. Using his other trio - the all-Swedish Fire!, he formed a 30-piece Fire! Orchestra adding 5 vocalists, 10 reed players, 4 guitarists, 3 drummers, 3 bassists, plus a keyboardist and electronics wizard to the original trio's line-up! Based on the ritualistic lyrics written by Dutch avant-garde rock musician Arnold de Boer, Orchestra recorded a two part suite with chant vocals from Mariam Wallentin (of Swedish experimental duo Wildbirds & Peacedrums) and Ethiopian-Swedish soprano Sofia Jernberg.

By its concept, Exit! could be compared with Carla Bley's "Escalator Over The Hill", Charlie Haden's Liberation Orchestra or Keith Tippet's Centipede - but transferred to the XXI century. From the very first seconds the listener will be caught by industrial rock pulsations orchestrated by a mind-blowing reeds section and exceptional vocals. The Cherry Thing sounds like a childish rehearsal compared to Exit!'s monumental beauty. With support from leading Swedish jazz and avant-garde rock musicians such as guitarist David Stackenas, bassist Dan Beglund (ex E.S.T., Tonbruket), reeds players Fredrik Ljungkvist (Atomic) and Magnus Broo (Atomic, Angles) as well as others, this work represents the entire modern experimental Swedish scene at its best. Avant-garde free-jazz/rock big band with operatic vocals and contemporary classical music elements played live in front of an enthusiastic audience - you just have to hear it!

It's a pity the album is so short, just around 45 minutes. Mats is known as a passionate vinyl record collector, probably it's the reason why his albums are usually just vinyl disc-long.

Highly recommended - I believe this album will take an honorable place among this year's best releases.
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