|Review courtesy of All About Jazz:
Cato Salsa Experience and The Thing with Joe McPhee
Sometimes you can't help bursting out laughing while listening to a record. Sounds like a Sandwich, a twenty-minute EP with a most appropriate title, is one of those releases. It features a Norwegian psychedelic rock band, Cato Salsa Experience, together with a jazz power trio, The Thing, and reed man Joe McPhee—or as they call themselves, two bands and a legend. The idea of Joe McPhee blowing Led Zeppelin's “Whole Lotta Love” may sound outrageous at the beginning, but after the initial laughs you'll find yourself pushing the replay button again and again.
The Thing (saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love) has a history of playing non-standard covers. The group has already covered PJ Harvey's “To Bring You My Love” (She Knows, Crazy Wisdom, 2001) and the White Stripes' “Aluminum” (Garage, Smalltown Supersound, 2004), and has collaborated closely with McPhee. The Thing's collaboration with CSE began last summer at Kongsberg Jazz Festival in Norway, where this EP was recorded live, and continued with a studio recording that is supposed to be released later this year, as well as an upcoming Norwegian tour later this summer.
The EP begins with CSE's title tune, and you get the idea when Gustafsson and McPhee begin to rip the air in the middle of the short song. CSE's two guitarists manage to recreate Jimmy Page's huge, primitive guitar riff on “Whole Lotta Love,” which is still effective after more than thirty years, but it is clear that no singer can contest Robert Plant's vocal cords. In any case, Gustafsson's baritone solo and McPhee's supporting tenor sax skyrocket the song into the stratosphere. Nilssen-Love adds some Elvin Jones-que sophistication to Bonham's original thumping. The Yeah, Yeah Yeahs' “Art Star” was covered on The Thing's Garage; here it enjoys the reckless rhythm that CSE injects into the chorus.
McPhee shines through Don Ayler's “Our Prayer,” first on his muted pocket trumpet and later in a beautiful tenor sax duet with Gustafsson. CSE's Bard Enerstad's organ adds a gospelish tinge to this quiet track, while Cato Salsa's gritty guitar pushes it to the edge. The concluding track, “Hardcore Mama,” is a simple tune, just like the opener, that uses a catchy guitar riff and lets Gustafsson and McPhee blow the chorus as if they were in some left-of-center R&B brass band.