The advent of a recording from the Brotherhood of Breath is a time of eager anticipation. The band was always inventive, their music challenging. They rode the winds of free jazz, added the flavor of dance music and enticed with the beat of the kwela. They bring all these elements together once more on this live recording from the Berlin JazzTage festival on November 4, 1971.
The music on the recording is continuous. Yet it does not weigh heavily. They change the impetus to good effect, moving from a danceable beat, to a free-for-all, to a swinging big band sound.
They find a blue feeling on "Eclipse at Dawn." Dissonance pulls in several strands, the trombone, the tenor sax and the trumpet stimulating the feeling into a slow, but steady flow. Nick Evans (trombone) lets the motifs fall steadily in the midst of a barrage of sound from the rest of the band that whirls and eddies and laps tumultuously at the core. The dizzy atmosphere is then braised by Mike Osborne's alto sax before the eddying air blows out and into "The Bride," the longest tune on the CD.
The Brotherhood showed collective imagination and an individual flair, working one into the other for impressive results. "The Bride" turns that trait up in trumps. It's a happy, jumpy tune that dissolves when Gary Windo (tenor sax) rips in, his playing manifested by the hard convulsions that cast themselves out of his horn in frantic cry. He is unfettered, but he has the vision and the logic to be the lifeblood. The Brotherhood come back to revel in collaborative and delightfully manic improvisation.
The Brotherhood also worked remarkably well in a big band swing groove. "Now" has sparkling ensemble lines, a pliant rhythm, and solos that do not break out in frenzy. Alan Skidmore (tenor saxophone) makes it all the more entertaining with ideas that sparkle in the mainstream.
"Nick Tete" devolves on snappy, happy dance rhythms. The melody is irresistibly catchy and the band fills it with a rainbow of colors. There is a slight tempest that moves in about midway, but it only adds to the attraction.
The music is vigorous, exciting and downright engaging. And that's what the Brotherhood of Breath was all about.
Personnel: Harry Beckett: trumpet; Marc Charig: trumpet; Nick Evans: trombone; Malcolm Griffiths: trombone; Chris McGregor: piano; Harry Miller: double bass; Louis Moholo: drums; Dudu Pukwana: alto sax; Mike Osborne: alto sax; Alan Skidmore: tenor sax; Gary Windo: tenor sax.