AMN Reviews: Shifa (Rachel Musson, Pat Thomas, Mark Sanders) – Live in Oslo (2020; 577 Records)

Shifa is the trio of saxophonist Rachel Musson, pianist Pat Thomas, and drummer Mark Sanders. All three are leading voices in the UK free improvisation scene, and have appeared on a significant number of recordings with other members of that scene and beyond. Live in Oslo is their second offering, following last year’s Live at Cafe Oto.

The sound evoked on this 34-minute, single-track recording is energetic, challenging, and refreshing at the same time. Musson’s leads vary from being distorted and coarse to plaintive and gently exploratory. Despite her discordance, she mostly eschews extended techniques aside from some punctuated explorations that harken to those of Anthony Braxton. Thomas adds a layer of vibrancy and color to the outing, setting down a slowly morphing set of industriously-played angular rhythmic structures, with many rolling cascades of notes. Sanders backs this up with his own active style that involves little in the way of repetition or easily-discernable patterns.

Needless to say, this recording is a wonderful piece of contemporaneous improv that breathes with passion and vigor. It goes to show how much we are losing with live music being virtually shut down worldwide. Live in Oslo does not drop until October 2, so mark your calendars, as you will not want to miss this one.