This Maryland-based label offers some seriously avant material, but this CD of highly individual progressive jazz should have a broader appeal – it’s just plain inspired. Swedish musicians Mats Oberg and Morgan Agren are influenced by Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Earth, Wind & Fire. The quintet consists of Orberg on keyboards, harmonica and vocals; Agren on drums, keyboards and synth; Jimmy Agren on guitar and bass; Robert Elovsson on keyboards, clarinet and voice; and Tommy Tordsson also on bass. The band had some listeners tell them “It feels like flying when I listen to you guys!” So with tongue firmly in cheeks the band decided to call this CD Thanks for Flying With Us – the joke doubly emphasized by the front and back photos on the package in which the five wear pilot’s uniforms and the member who is shown piloting the plane in the cockpit is the one who has a white cane (not a prop). The band’s whole approach upholds Zappa’s philosophy of iconoclasm and humor.
Drummer Morgan also reports that it took about two years to make this CD, and that he used vintage tube amps and tube mics plus the best A-D converters to achieve their best sound. (Not knowing which of the members is the one who is blind I would venture it’s him.) Other attractions of this terrific disc are the interesting guest artists brought in: Turkish reed player Ismet Demirhan is hear on Allan in the Rain, and on Softma, a guest player is heard on the klaviharp – a sort of cross between a harpsichord and a clavinette. There is also a guest violinist on the date.
The Mats/Morgan band is tight and precise and seem capable of playing absolutely anything with great gusto. Some jazz groups make feeble attempts to incorporate other genres such as pop, hard rock or world music into their music; the Mats/Morgan men integrate everything and make it their own. This is one of the biggest-sounding quintets I’ve auditioned in a while.
– John Henry