Mats Gustafsson


Born 1964 in Umeå, Sweden; all saxophones, fluteophones, flutes, weevil sax, amplified saxophones and live-electronics.

With the noble exception of Sven-Åke Johansson, the free improvised music scene in Sweden was not thought to exist until the appearance of the double LP, Sounds: Contemporary Swedish improvised music. This (deliberate) documentation of a three-day festival held in Stockholm in 1989 came from a discussion between the artist Edward Jarvis, Harald Hult and Mats Gustafsson. At that time, the music in Sweden was at a very early stage. Gustafsson had undertaken flute studies in his teens and played in various jazz-rock and punk units in Umeå in the early 1980s, starting to play improvised music with drummer Kjell Nordeson in 1982, beginning the AALY Trio in 1986. Performances/happenings with Edward G. Jarvis began in 1984 and Gustafsson moved to Stockholm in 1985, collaborating with Dror Feiler and Jörgen Adolfsson. The duo of Gustafsson and Christian Munthe - 'Two slices of electric car' (with latterly the 'electric' being replaced by 'acoustic' - had begun in 1986 and the trio Gush - Gustafsson, Sten Sandell and Raymond Strid - had started around 1988. Gustafsson had also been particularly inspired on first hearing Peter Brötzmann and his playing reflects the obvious energy associated with Brötzmann as well as more textural, timbre-focussed areas associated more with free improvisors. The short essay in Gustafsson, M., Hultberg, E., and Millroth, T. (below) points out that Gustafsson has come to improvised music by way of jazz, without himself actually treading the obvious jazz route (i.e. by following Ayler, Coleman and Coltrane who he was too young to be contemporaneous with).

Mats Gustafsson has since played widely with musicians from freely-improvised and jazz backgrounds, both in his native Sweden and increasingly, in the last fifteen years, abroad. He undertakes an extensive touring schedule having played over 1,500 concerts with music ensembles and solo projects internationally. These associations include duo, trio, quartet and large ensemble work with Paul Lovens; various combinations with Paul Lytton, involvement with Günter Christmann's Vario groups and festivals, in duo with Barry Guy in trio with Guy and Raymond Strid and as a member of the Barry Guy New Orchestra since its inception in 2000. He has played in various groups with Roger Turner (1998 saw a brief tour in the UK of the trio of Gustafsson, Turner and Pat Thomas) and was a member of Derek Bailey's Company in 1990 in London. From a first trip in 1988 Mats Gustafsson has been a regular visitor to the US, forming a particular affinity with Chicago-based musicians such as Hamid Drake, Michael Zerang, Ken Vandermark, David Grubbs and Fred Lonberg holm and being a member of the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet since 1997.

Mats Gustafsson has worked extensively with artists from the worlds of dance (Lotta Melin, Kazuo Ohno, Tiger, Susanne Jaresand, GushTanz, Die AudioGruppe/AudioBallerinas, Birgitta Egerbladh, Claire Parsons), theatre (Saara Salminen-Wallin; Lars Rudolfson; Sven-Åke Johansson), poetry (Stig Larsson, Maria Gummesson; Sven-Åke Johansson; Jenny Morelli; Jaap Blonk; Terri Kapsalis; Mikael Niemi; Mattias Alkberg; Gerhild Ebel) and painting (Hanns Schimansky, Olle Bonnier, Ann Blom, Karin Almlöf, Inger Arvidsson, Anders Knutsson, Gerhild Ebel, Edward Jarvis, Håkan Blomkvist, Leif Elggren, Lars Kleen, Mathias Pöschl). Some of these combinations were brought together in his 1997 enhanced CD, Impropositions, released by the Swedish Music Information Center. Mats Gustafsson also works as a composer and a selective list of his compositions includes:

Gustafsson formed The Thing with Norwegians Paal Nilssen-Love and Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten in 2000 and, as well as performing as a trio, they work with frequent collaborators such as Joe McPhee, Ken Vandermark and the Norwegian hard-core-combo Cato Salsa Experience. He has also been a frequent collaborator with Sonic Youth since 2000 undertaking recordings, concerts and festivals. He has initiated a number of "Silence" projects - Original Silence, Related Silence, International Silence and Another Silence - with a.o. Guy Picciotto, Ikue Mori, Caspar Brötzmann, DJ Olive, Thurston Moore, Terrie Ex, Jim OĠRourke, Han Bennink, Tim Barnes, Massimo Zu, Paal Nilssen-Love, Dror Feiler and Johan Berthling: different combinations of musicians and soundartists focusing on creative improvised noise and alternative rock-music.

Mats Gustafsson has initiated four record labels. He started Blue Tower Records with Harald Hult in 1989, Crazy Wisdom (no longer in existence) with Christian Falk and Conny C. Lindström in 1999, Olof Bright Editions with Thomas Millroth in 2000, and SLOTTET with Conny C Lindström and Maria Eriksson in 2006.

Further reading

Chaloin, Marc (1995), Mats Gusafsson. Improjazz, no. 19, (October), pp. 6-10. (in French).

Millroth, Thomas (2002). Swedish free impro. Full text available on this site.

Gustafsson, M., Hultberg, E., and Millroth, T. (n.d.), Solo improvisation & interpretation: essays. Almföf Edition. 48pp. ISBN 91 9719 200 7. In A5 format, this is a series of notes rather than essays, one page in length, sometimes accompanied by a photograph, of a wide range of improvisers and interpreters, e.g. Derek Bailey, Barry Guy, Marilyn Crispell, Mats Gustafsson, Dror Feiler, Irène Schweizer, Joëlle Léandre, Robyn Schulkowsky.

Montgomery, Will (1997), Mats Gusafsson: flow motion. The Wire, no. 164, (October), p. 18.

Rösnes, Thore (1996), Jag vill beröra..., Gränslöst, no. 1, (March), pp. 9-13.


1988, Now or never, Bauta Rec BAR 8803. Sten Sandell.
1988, Saw, Radium 046. The too much too soon orchestra.
1989, Tjo och tjim, Dragon DRLP192. Gush and Sven-Åke Johansson.
1989, Sounds: Contemporary Swedish improvised music, Blue Tower records BTLP 01/02. Includes two tracks from 'Two slices of electric car'.
1989, The Aerial no. 6, AER 1994/6. Duo with Ricardo Dal Farra.
1990, Try me, Blue Tower BTSHH 50. The Try me ensemble.
1990, From things to sounds, Dragon DRCD 204. Gush
1990/1991, Nothing to read, Blue Tower BRCD03.
1991, Dolphins, dolphins, dolphins, Dragon DRCD 215. Per Henrick Wallin.
1992, Letter 4, Leo CD LR190. Duo with Sainkho Namchylak.
1992, Mouth eating trees and related activities, Okka Disk OD12010. Gustafsson/Guy/Lovens.
1991/1992, Sometimes crosswise, Moers 02094 CD. Günter Christmann.
1993, Vario-34, Edition Explico exp 05/Blue Tower Records BTCD 06.
1994, Parrot fish eye, Okka Disk 12006.
1994, Gushwachs, Bead CD002. Gush and Phil Wachsmann.
1994, TR!O, FMP CD 136. Christmann/Gustafsson/Lovens.
1988/94, Of if - best of Improvised Friday, Blue Tower BTCD 05. Forthcoming.
1994/1995, You forget to answer, Maya MCD 9601. With Barry Guy and Raymond Strid.
1995, Blow horn, Okka Disk OD 12019. FJF.
1995, For Don Cherry, Okka Disk ODL 10003. Gustafsson/Hamid Drake duo.
1995, The education of Lars Jerry, XERIC XER-CD-100. Solo.
1995, Nickelsdorf Konfrontation, Silkheart 143. Joel Futterman-Kidd Jordan Quintet.
1994/96, The spirit of milvus milvus, Rub-a-Dub CD14. Christer Bothen.
1996, Opus apus, LJCD 5212. Jormin/Gustafsson/Jormin.
1996, Upgrade and afterlife, Drag City DC90CD. Gastr del sol.
1996, gryffgryffgryffs, Music & Arts CD-1003. Guy, Gustafsson, Strid, Crispell.
1996, Battuto, Random Acoustics RA 023. Gustafsson, Lonberg-Holm, Kapsalis, Corbett.
1996, Improvisors, Kontrans 143. With Jaap Blonk and Michael Zerang.
1996, Live at Fasching, Dragon DRCD 313. Gush.
1996, Live in Tampere, Dragon DRCD 327. Gush.
1996, Impropositions, Phono Suecia PSCD 99. Enhanced CD.
1996, Hidden in the stomach, Silkheart 149. Aaly Trio + Ken Vandermark.
1996, Concert in Berlin 1996, Wobbly Rail WOB007. Georg Gräwe Quintet.
1996, Electric eel, QBICO 30. Gush.
1997, Lennart, Blue Tower Records BTCDS 51. Two slices of acoustic car.
1997, Live in Holland '97, X-OR FR 5. With Misha Mengelberg and Gert-Jan Prins.
1997, Frogging, Maya MCD 9702. Duo with Barry Guy.
1997, The Chicago Octet/Tentet, Okka disk OD12022. Peter Brötzmann.
1997, One to (two)..., Okka Disk ODL 10002. Gustafsson/Christmann duo.
1997, Hidros one (1997), Caprice 21566.
1997/98, Three concerts per a A.T., Edition Explico 08. Three tracks with Christmann/Lovens.
1998, Stumble, Wobbly Rail WOB-002. AALY Trio + Ken Vandermark.
1998, 98 Duets, Wobbly Rail WOB004. Two duos with Jeb Bishop.
1998, Background music, hatOLOGY 526. Gregorio/Gustafsson/Nordeson.
1998, * water writes always in * plural, Concepts of doing 004. Vario 34-2.
1998, Die harke und der spaten, Umlaut Records UMFR-CD04. Sven-Åke Johansson.
1998, Apertura, Blue Chopsticks BC2. Duo with David Grubbs.
1999, They were gentle and pretty pigs, The Beak Doctor BD7. Goodman/Gustafsson/Cremaschi.
1999, Live at the Glenn Miller Café, Wobbly Rail WOB-008. AALY Trio + Ken Vandermark.
1999, Three rocks and a pine, Ninth World Music NWM 020. With The Wild Mans Band.
1999, Stone/Water, Okka disk OD12032. The Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet.
1999, Double or nothing, Okka disk OD12035. AALY Trio/DKV Trio.
1999, Sticky tongues and kitchen knives, XERIC XER-CD-101. Duo with John Corbett.
1999, Xylophonen virtuosen, Incus CD38. Duo with Jim O'Rourke.
1999, Windows: the music of Steve Lacy, Blue Chopsticks BC4. Solo.
1999, Port Huron picnic, Spool SPL 110/LINE 10. Trio with Kurt Newman and Mike Gennaro.
1999, Sounds 99, Blue Tower Records BTCD 09/10/11.
2000, The Thing, Crazy Wisdom 001. Trio with Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and Paal Nilssen-Love.
2000, I wonder if I was screaming, Crazy Wisdom 003. AALY Trio with Ken Vandermark.
2000, Inscape - Tableaux, Intakt CD 066. Barry Guy New Orchestra.
2000, Broken English, Okka disk OD12043. The Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet Plus Two.
2000, Hidros 3, Smalltown Supersound STS080CD. Mats Gustafsson/Sonic Youth with Friends.
2000, Short visit to nowhere, Okka disk OD12044. The Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet Plus Two.
2000, Two lightboxes, Locust 53. The Peter Brötzmann Tentet Plus Two + The Come Sunday Ensemble.
2000, Pipeline. Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 010. Pipeline.
2000/2001, Look at the music, Olof Bright OBCD09. Two track on compilation CD.
2001, I love it when you snore, Smalltown Supersound STS063CD. Duo with Paal Nilssen-Love.
2001, The music of Norman Howard, Anagram Records ANA LP 001. School Days and The Thing
2002, Chicago 2002, Emanem 4082. Paul Rutherford.
2002, Trees and truths, Olof Bright OBEP 6, 7, 8. Håkan Blomkvist/Mats Gustafsson.
2002, Friend of the bumblebee, Rönnells/Håll Tjäften TJÄFT 002.
2002, The Zanzibar excursion, STIM/SAMI. A promotional 32-minute DVD for DJustable.
2002, Off-road, Blue Chopsticks BC11. Duo with David Grubbs.
2002/2003, Images, Okka disk OD12047. The Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet.
2002/2003, Signs, Okka disk OD12048. The Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet.
2003, No one ever works alone, Okka disk OD12053. Sonore.
2003, Gush 25, No label. Gush.
2003, Live at Blå, Smalltown Superjazzz STSJ099CD. The Thing.
2003, Norrköping, Atavistic ALP161CD. Gush.
2003, Blues, Atavistic ALP163CD. Gustafsson/Stackenäs.
2004, Garage, Smalltown Superjazzz STS078CD. The Thing.
2004, 13 Erindringer fra Hr. Grøns liv, Ninth World Music NWM 035. Torden Kvartetten
2004, Be music, night, Okka disk OD12059. The Chicago Tentet featuring Mike Pearson. Also issued on Jazzwerkstatt JW 002.
2004, Oort-Entropy, Intakt CD 101. Barry Guy New Orchestra.
2004, Critical mass, psi 05.06. Agustí Fernández/Mats Gustafsson.
2005, Slide, Firework Editions FER 1054. Solo on the slide saxophone.
2005, Catapult, doubtmusic dms-103. Baritone sax solo.
2005, ONJO, doubtmusic dms-102. Otomo Yoshihide's New Jazz Orchestra.
2005, Out to lunch, doubtmusic dmf-108. Otomo Yoshihide's New Jazz Orchestra.
2005, Plingeling/Plingaling, Olof Bright OBCD 12. Olle Bonniér.
2006, Free The Jazz Free The Jazz Discs FREE#1. Eric Oscarsson and the Perspectives.
2006, Only the devil has no dreams Jazzwerkstatt JW013. Sonore.
2006, Devil's last call, Ninth World Music NWM 042. Torden Kvartetten
2006, American landscapes 1, Okka disk OD12067. The Chicago Tentet.
2006, American landscapes 2, Okka disk OD12068. The Chicago Tentet.
2006, Beirut-Ystad, Olof Bright OBCD 16-17.
2006, Tarfala, Maya Recordings MCD0801. Guy/Gustafsson/Strid.
2006, The fat is gone Smalltown Superjazz STSJ138CD. Brötzmann/Nilssen-Love/Gustafsson.
2007, At Molde 2007 (10 years 10tet), Okka disk OD12072. The Chicago Tentet.
2008, The Vilnius explosion, No Business Records NBCD1.
2008, The Vilnius implosion, No Business Records NBLP1.
2008, Call before you dig, Okka disk OD12083.
2008, Radio rondo/Schaffhausen concert, Intakt CD 158. LJCO/Irène Schweizer.
2008, Sound food, Olof Bright OBEP 24. Mats Gustafsson/Lennart Nilsson.
2008, Intergalactic sound transmission: live at Ystad Art Museum, May 3rd 2008, Olof Bright OBCD 27. Per Svensson.
2008, No Denmark, Olof Bright OBCD 31. One track on this Jakob Riis CD.
2008, 10 jahre bessere farben, mikroton cd 5/6. One track by Swedish Azz on this compilation CD.
2008, Harmos, Intakt DVD 151. LJCO.
2008-2011, Torturing the saxophone. Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 012. Solo.
2009, Sinners, rather than saints, No Business Records NBLP6. Barry Guy/Mats Gustafsson.
2009, Syzygy, No Business Records NBLP35. Tarfala Trio.
2009, Quartet, BBB12/13. Trio BraamDeJoodeVatcher.
2010, Needs!, Dancing Wayang Records DWR005. Solo.
2010, Mad dogs, Not Two 902-2 (5CD set). Barry Guy New Orchestra small formations.
2010, Mats Gustafsson/Raymond Strid - RIIS and the Smooth Ones ---- Hockey, Gaffer Records split 10" vinyl.
2011, Cafe OTO/London, Trost TR108. Sonore.
2011, Metal!, No Business Records NBLP47. The Thing with Barry Guy.
2011, Long story short, Trost TR112. 5CD Peter Brötzmann set.
2011, Concert for Fukushima: Wels 2011, Trost TR114/Panrec DVD08. Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet.
2011, Birds, dEN Records dEN 008. Mats Gustafsson/John Russell/Raymond Strid.
2012, Shfit, No Business Records NBLP59. Correction with Mats Gustafsson.
2012, Enormous door, EX 138 D. The Ex & Brass Unbound.
2012, Exit!, Rune Grammofon RCD 2138. Fire! Orchestra.
2012, Mad dogs on the loose, Not Two 925-2 (4CD set). Barry Guy New Orchestra small formations.
2012, Live at Cafe OTO - 'And so say all of us', Ex 142V. The Ex plus guests.
2013, Amphi - Radio rondo, Intakt CD 235. Barry Guy New Orchestra.
2013, Soundtrack, Trost TR129. Fake the Facts.
2013, Verses. Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 009. Vandermark/Gustafsson.
2013, Live, The Thing Records TTR003CD. The Thing/Thurston Moore.
2013, Boot, The Thing Records TTR001CD. The Thing.
2013, The march, Konvoj Records KOR005. Gush.
2014, Enter, Rune Grammofon RCD 2158. Fire! Orchestra.

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