Gord Grdina Trio w/ Mats Gustafsson: Barrel Fire
Drip Audio

This live recording reveals that it took no more than ten seconds for the furious onslaught of collective sound conjured by The Gord Grdina Trio and Mats Gustafsson to be unleashed upon the audience during the musicians' first set at the 2009 Vancouver International Jazz Festival. Barrel Fire is an especially high-energy release from guitarist Grdina, whose Vancouver-based trio is rounded out by drummer Kenton Loewen and bassist Tommy Babin, and the intensity of the group's attack on that date was surely spurred on by the titanic charge of Gustafsson's saxophone playing. His reputation precedes him, of course (he's toured with Peter Brötzmann, Sonic Youth, Merzbow, among others, and is a member of the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet), so we already know how ferocious a player he can be, while Grdina, all scrabbled electric fire and scintillating runs, proves himself to be an able sparring partner.

Opener “F.W.R.” is a take-no-prisoners barrelhouse of awesome force. The subsequent “Burning Bright” is less single-minded in approach, as solo spots for Grdina, Babin, and Gustafsson are folded into its episodic structure. The four tear into “229” with frenzy, Gustafsson squealing in his upper register and Loewen going toe-to-toe with the saxophonist's wail. Grdina also plays oud during the set and such moments provide temporary shelter from the storm. The Iraqi traditional “Enshakoota,” for example, begins with a four-minute oud spotlight before the others enter to stoke the fire with Gustafsson's elephantine roar leading the way. All told, it's a straight-up and largely unedited document of the set that preserves the dynamic feel of the performance. Egged on by a worshipful audience, the band rips through five pieces like a rabid dog on the attack, the musicians' sound at times reminiscent of Naked City in intensity and of Ornette Coleman's (original) Prime Time in harmolodic approach. Barrel Fire's primal improvisations are most certainly not recommended for the weak of heart.

January 2011