Four days after my last visit to Porgy & Bess for the second evening of the Franz Hautzinger residency, I was back there again – and so, funnily enough, was Mats Gustafsson, this time in a trio with Peter Evans on trumpet and Agusti Fernandez on piano. I’ve never been a huge fan of the trumpet, and having been underwhelmed by the rather queasy sound of Hautzinger I was quite prepared not to like Evans either. But the man was a revelation. Standing shoulder to shoulder, the trumpeter and saxophonist united in a jaw-dropping tour de force of fierce blowing and jumpy, agitated motifs.
With no bass or drums to anchor things down, the music flew in all sorts of unexpected directions. Key to this was Fernandez, who offered as instructive a contrast to Georg Graewe’s cerebral approach four nights before as Evans’ methods were doing to those of Hautzinger. The pianist’s fingers skipped nimbly across the keyboard, sending bright tone clusters to coalesce with the more gutsy sound of the horns.
As for Gustafsson, this was a more cryptic performance than we have come to expect from him. There was little of the zestful soloing that he brings to his work with The Thing, Sonore and Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet. For the most part he set his sights instead on furrowed contortions of sound, save for a powerful baritone solo which followed an extended passage of crystalline beauty from Fernandez. Combined with Evans’ extraordinary mastery of the trumpet, this was music that required – and amply repaid – the deepest of listening.