REVIEWS (magazines)

“Keyboardist Mats Öberg and drummer Morgan Agren are legends in their native Sweden, and had the good fortune to be singled out by Frank Zappa for touring duties during the ‘nineties. The music of the CD illustrates why this happened. Öberg, blind from birth, is a keyboard prodigy, while Agren is regularly voted into the top three best drummers in the world. The music is jazz-rock, echoing Zappa, but more often world/jazz-rock supremo Joe Zawinul, and his ilk. Bassist Tommy Tordsson aids the remarkable duo. The tracks, all live, range from heavyweight jazz-rock freak-outs in impossible-to-follow time signatures, to otherworldly Zawinul-esque divertissements. Öberg wrings some great sounds out of his synth…it does grip the listener, especially the insane piano/harp/drums/brass trip cut “The Bösendorfer of Advokaten.” The DVD collects sixty-five clips of Agren in action, ranging from studio work to sessions to live cuts. Excellent quality material, and an absolute must for drummers in any genre.” –
Simon Lewis and Stephen Palmer, Terrascope,, 2008“

With a collection of eight albums already and the experience of playing at concerts and festivals alike, Mats Oberg and Morgan Agren have a life long rush of musical genius behind them and they are not stopping there…the duo definitely have something huge going for them… The CD, Heat Beats Live, is a collection of the excellence of their live performances done at Stockholm’s Club Fasching in May 2005 and April 2007, and in France’s Le Triton club near Paris in September 2007… Jazz Rock must have… If you are a fan of any type of jazz music from Medeski Martin and Wood, Frank Zappa, or even trip hop artists such as Bjork or Massive Attack, you need to pick up this album for you collection. It’s a decision you won’t regret!” [5 stars]
Lisa Knapp, Lucidforge,
[Ranked number 3 on Loughborough Radio’s Alternative playlist] – Jazzwise, November 2008

“If your tastes run to the more experimental side of things, this is a disc you simply must have… Their music is highly charged experimental jazz-fusion with doses of modern classical influences. The musicianship of this duo is first rate; it’s absurdly complex at times yet on a dime will become minimalistic featuring tinkling keyboards and harmonica… it’s a musical roller-coaster. You will never quite know where the music will be going next because it defies traditional convention.”
Jerry Lucky, “My Progressive Rock World”,

“Their music is influenced by jazz, classical, progressive rock, Magma, Frank Zappa, and jazz-fusion… Most of the songs are very complex and are not in your standard 4/4 time…Mats uses a full range of keyboard sounds creating a very full sound. Morgan's drumming at times reminded me of Terry Bozzio's playing, where they play melodies and rhythm at the same time. He also changes where he accents the beats… and this gives a lot of color to his playing… The highlight of this package for me is the DVD… put together by Morgan Argen… There are over 70 video clips… There are videos of the Mats/ Morgan Band, Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart tribute bands, Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah) and other jazz ensembles… really good close up shots of Morgan playing… so can see what he exactly doing. He definitely has is own style and adds a lot to the music he plays from jazz to metal. I could not recommend this DVD enough to anyone that plays drums or enjoys them… One amazing drummer!” [4 stars]
Christian Bernier, Sea of Tranquility,

“The live DVD Tourbooks, included in Mats/Morgan’s career-spanning compilation Heat Beats Live, opens with a tight shot of drummer Morgan Agren’s hands, still for the moment, but poised over a vast drum kit…When he starts, his hands fly over the set, impossibly fast but light-tempered and playful. His expression is a strange combination of grimace and grin, the grimace, one imagines, for the difficulty, the grin for the sheer joy of drumming…Agren is… a drummer’s drummer who can flit from cool traditional jazz to proggy rock to howling Swedish metal, without dropping a stick, without batting an eye… Heat Beats Live is…distillation of the pair’s technical proficiency and playful musicality, augmented on about half the tracks by a full band. The disc starts with “The Return of Advokaten”, a prolonged, fast-paced three-way between Agren’s pulsing, storming rhythms, Oberg’s cool Return to Forever-ish keys, and Tommy Tordsson’s frantic bass. The keyboard takes all kinds of roles here, sounding like an electric piano, an organ and, briefly, a flute. Yet it’s the duel in the rhythm section that gives the cut oomph. You quite simply can’t believe that both of them can keep up with the pace and complexity of the piece, yet they do so without visible strain…
the most powerful cuts seem to be…the ones where Mats and Morgan go at it, just the two of them, their difficultly paced rhythms matching sometimes and intersecting at odd angles at others. You are struck first by the skill at work in cuts like “Mats Jingle” and “Truvas Rumble”… but then by the sense of play. There is a lightness, a giddiness, a trick-rider bravado to the stunts they pull, as if they themselves cannot stop grinning at what they have gotten away with… Your appreciation for Heat Beats will depend, to a large extent, on how well you tolerate fusion… but Mats and Morgan do it so skillfully that you have to set personal preferences aside… on Trends and Other Diseases… the addition of vocals takes the focus off their really excellent playing and puts it on the melodies. It’s much more of a pop take on what they do, a fusion not just of rock and jazz, but of R&B, funk, and diva crooning… there are just far more instruments on Trends than in the live show, and some of them work better than others within the jazz-into-rock framework… Still, the skill level is undeniably high…. If you’ve got a drummer in your family, pick these records up for him. He’ll either thank you or give up his instrument forever.” [7 stars]

Jennifer Kelly, PopMatters,

“Swedish jazz/prog rock outfit Mats Morgan Band owe a lot to the more exploratory flirtations between jazz and rock through the 60's and 70's, especially in John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, and more significantly Frank Zappa's work… The controlled insanity of Zappa comes through in Heat Beats Live… Mats Morgan Band are successful when they go for sustained intensity… It would be criminal to ignore just how amazing the performances on this album are. The bass work is particularly notable. Even though it undoubtedly evokes the jazz fusion of the 80's, particularly when slap is used, bass guitarist Tommy Thordsson ultimately proves to be a strong basis for the musical material above, particularly where Morgan Agren seeks more to add color and spectacle to the band’s structure… his breakneck voicings are breathtaking and of the kind of harmonically obtuse chord structures that would make Zappa proud… ignore just how alive these players are in a live format and how well the style does come off when put forth with consistency and structural order. Above all, when on song, Mats Morgan Band is totally ridiculous fun.”
Marcus Whale, The Silent Ballet

Thanks For Flying With Us
“Thanks For Flying With Us is the…seventh record of this band, but…their first effort to be released worldwide.
This album features, apart from the duo Oberg and Ågren, Jimmy Ågren on bass and electric guitar, Robert Elovsson on keyboards, clarinet and vocals and Tommy Tordsson on bass guitar. This line-up started playing with Ågren and Oberg in 2001…
…the music contains a wide variety of references… for example, Bruford, Hatfield And The North, Allan Holdsworth, Jaga Jazzist, National Health and at certain times even Utopia can be heard.
… Thanks For Flying With Us is by far this collective’s most mature product up to date. The album is both dynamic and refined, lively but modest and chequered but homogeneous… The dazzling rhythms, the complex shifts and the odd time signatures ceaselessly attract the listener’s attention.
…I myself…had a great time with this energetic disc full of demonstrations of metric musical mastership, and I should think that I am not alone in thinking so…”

Frans Schmidt, Prog Wereld,

“… To refer to these Swedish musicians as virtuosos is an understatement. While still teenagers, they played as guests with Frank Zappa…performed as part of the Zappa’s Universe band in 1993. … Thanks For flying With Us is their seventh album… Like Zappa, their music can range from detailed and complex to simple and melodic. … There are lots of fast keyboard riffs on clav, parallel harmony lines, and changing meters. A few of the tracks have Wardenclyffe Tower-era Allan Holdsworth-sounding soling. Tunes like “ADAT Dropsout I Love You” and “Softma” contrastthese these complex pieces and showcase a slower melodic side of the band. …”Please Remain Seated” has a standout drum solo… The live tracks…allow Mats and Morgan to stretch out in several directions. These guys can definitely play.” – Mike Grimes, “Roundtable Review”, Exposé, Issue no. 33, May 2006“While the opening track has the influence of Frank Zappa written all over it (that’s not a criticism, these guys do an outstanding job of tracking FZ’s stylistic tendencies), things get even more varied and adventurous as this disc progresses. … Most of the vocals on the disc are wordless extensions of the overall instrumental approach. The drums and bass provide angular and jagged, yet solid grooves that set up the framework for all the multilayered keyboard interplay that gives these guys–and this disc– a unique sound. …plenty of…ultra-intense moments scattered across the disc; complementing those, several more moody and softer melodic pieces…including one Mats solo…plus some cuts that…hard funk in a sort-of Herbie Hancock style. … Another great one from M/M.”
Peter Thelen, “Roundtable Review”, Exposé, Issue no. 33, May 2006

“Mats/Morgan have been one of Sweden’s best kept prog secrets for over 20 years. … For three musicians (including guitarist Jimmy Ågren) whom have played together most of their lives they truly sound telepathic. The title track says it all: relentless synchronized playing between guitars, keys and drums but smoothly executed. …the band is heavily steeped in complex charts and whirlwind arrangements that are simultaneously spectacular and intricate. “Not us” is pure Frank smiling down from beyond… Oberg is a fine keyboardist – his selection of synth tones is unique, with a heavy digital gear sound, but less metallic. His symphonic approach reminds me of Chick Corea’s RTF work… “Softma” rekindles themes that suggest Kit Watkins playing with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. … Overall I can’t convey enough how impressive this band is…”
– Jeff Melton, “Roundtable Review”, Exposé, Issue no. 33, May 2006

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Morgan Ågren free drumsolo, France July 2010 (part 1)
Morgan Ågren free drumsolo, France July 2010 (part 2)