Mats Gustaffson Solo at Cankarjev Dom, Ljubljana, Slovenia

It is comparatively rare that live streams get a review, but, when they are a special event with excellent sound and visual qualities, that seems a shame. So here are my thoughts on a stream featuring a solo set by saxophonist Mats Gustaffson in the main hall at the Cankarjev Dom venue in Ljubljana. Mats is Swedish, but is based in Austria, so I assume it was relatively easy for him to make his way to Ljubljana.

The set was pre-recorded rather than live streamed, and this no doubt helped create in the venue an atmospheric setting with very effective use of lighting, and the creation with small objects of both a circle and the shape of a person with arms akimbo on the stage floor within and around which Mats moved while performing.

Musically, the set was very interesting. Mats revealed the more thoughtful side of his playing rather than the full on, high energy approach we hear in groups such as The Thing. He presented a journey through the various saxophones from the soprano to the bass saxophone, plus flute, each one of which he played in turn. He also seemed to be exploring different sounds and ways of generating them. I watched the video shortly after watching the BBC documentary about Delia Derbyshire from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop who had a fascination with sounds and different ways of creating them. Mats seems to have the same interest, but with acoustic wind instruments rather than electronics.

Mats began with a gentle approach on the flute before moving on to the soprano saxophone on which he maintained the gentle mood of the flute passage. Towards the end of the passage the mood became a little more energetic, and this mood was intensified when Mats moved to the alto saxophone. At this point Mats began to use extended techniques in order to explore various sounds possible on the alto. The intensity rose again with the switch to the tenor saxophone and also through extended techniques Mats explored a kind of breathy sound on the tenor. Then came the baritone saxophone continuing the build up of tension and intensity. Finally, Mats picked up the bass saxophone and produced a wonderfully rich booming sound. There the video went blank for a few seconds, but returned with a final shot of Mats in the actual auditorium playing a clarinet/oboe type instrument that I did not recognise.

Mats was very happy with the concert and the way it worked in the Gallus Hall in Cankarjev Dom; afterwards he said ‘It was truly the most amazing set and the GREATEST crew ever – surrounded by broken reeds and one of the greatest acoustics for solo sax EVER! I was in Valhalla heaven!’

The video is still online and can be accessed here.

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