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Mats Gustafsson
Even in the most adventurous music circles, it's rare when a player invents a radically unique sound on his instrument. But that's precisely what Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson has achieved. And he's only 35 years old.

Jumping off from the nearly unreal standards set by pioneering avant-gardists Albert Ayler, Evan Parker, and Peter Brotzmann, the young Swede draws from a heady bank of extended techniques that both amplify and personalize the range of his horn. From percussive slap-tongue tricks, which punctuate his phrases with well-timed rhythmic and timbral jolts, to an agile use of non-diatonic melodies, which purposefully slip-slide around the common reference points in our Western tuning system, the distinction of Gustafsson's speaking-in-tongues vocabulary rivals those of Europe's most respected improvisers, some of whom -- Brotzmann, Misha Mengelberg, Paul Lovens, Barry Guy -- have become enthusiastic collaborators.

A devoted experimentalist, Gustafsson says he has found no limit to what the saxophone can do. And it's this willingness to make possible the seemingly impossible that's fueled his astonishingly prolific body of work. In the past five years the artist has appeared on roughly two dozen recordings, ranging from trenchant improvisations on gryffgryffgryffs (Music & Arts) with former Braxton Quartet pianist Marilyn Crispell to post-rock weirdness on Gastr del Sol's Upgrade and Afterlife (Drag City), with cult-hero/guitarist Jim O'Rourke. On Background Music, on the eminent Swiss imprint hatOLOGY, Gustafsson is a tour de force of subtle eloquence whose mature musical dialogues with bandmates Kjell Nordeson (drums) and Guillermo Gregorio (reeds) far exceed his years.

-- Sam Prestianni

Mats Gustafsson appears in solos, duos, trios, and quartets with Bruce Ackley, Jon Raskin, Gino Robair, Garth Powell, and George Cremaschi on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 8:15 p.m. at Beanbender's, 2295 Shattuck, Berkeley. Tickets are $7; call 621-1967. And with Greg Goodman and George Cremaschi for solos, duets, and trios on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 5 and 6, at 8:30 p.m. at Woody Woodman's Finger Palace, 903 Cedar, Berkeley. Tickets are $10; no phone.

 
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