Shifa is the British free-improv trio of tenor sax player Rachel Musson, pianist Pat Thomas and drummer Mark Sanders, titled after the Arabic word for healing,شفاء. «Live in Oslo» is the sophomore album of Shifa, recorded at Oslo’s Deichmanske Bibliotek Schous Plass during the Blow Out! Festival in August 2019, a month after Shifa released its debut album, «Live at Cafe OTO» (577, 2019).
Musson mentions in her brief liner notes that «it felt a bit surreal creating so much sound surrounded by books, in a room usually associated with silence». Fortunately, this surreal atmosphere did not interfere with Shifa’s unique kind of healing music of the moment, raw, fearless and powerful and encompassing all the history of jazz and beyond.
The performance features a 34-minutes piece «Taste/Blas», divided into two sides of the vinyl edition. It begins with a suggestive, searching introduction where Musson, Thomas and Sanders dive deep into their own sonic universes, Musson with an Ayler-ian singing voice, Thomas pounding hard on the vibrant piano keys and Sanders is all over the drum-set but never offering conventional rhythmic patterns, but there is a strong sense of unity and attentive listening. Suddenly, this urgent and rough and explosive energy evolves into a spacious, contemplative segment, where all three musicians experiment – as a collective and with individual solos – with extended techniques, but, still, dancing around the unpredictable pulse of Sanders, and conclude the «Taste» side with an intense, cathartic coda.
The «Blas» side begins with a playful, rhythmic interplay that soon is abstracted into a free-form improvisation that stresses again the rich palette of sounds and sonic textures that Shifa can construct and deconstruct instantly. Then Shifa closes this masterful performance with another segment that alternates between intense and fiery gestures and more melodic and openly emotional ones, both highlight the natural flow and the almost telepathic conversational interplay of this trio, where Musson, Thomas and Sanders intensify and expand each’s other ideas.
Rachel Musson (ts), Pat Thomas (p), Mark Sanders (dr)