Since his first recordings in the mid '60s, German saxophonist Brötzmann can either be accused of being limited or extremely focused. Whatever the ruling, there has been no one player over the past decades who better encapsulates the upheaval of post-war Europe. Four "new discs with different groups, but with different sounds, are consistent with his career.
Peter Brötzmann Clarinet Project
Berlin Djungle (originally released on FMP) is a large-scale session from the 1984 JazzFest Berlin. Brötzmann is one of the original Globe Unity Orchestra members, and he takes that international concept and applies it here to a clarinet-based ensemble. Tony Coe, Ernst Ludwig Petrowsky, Louis Sclavis, J.D. Parran, and John Zorn join him on the front clarinet line. Augmenting them is trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, trombonists Hannes Bauer and Alan Tomlinson, and the "rhythm section of William Parker and Tony Oxley. Much like similar efforts from both sides of the Atlantic, Berlin Djungle is both dense and sparse, delicate and bludgeoning, laser-beam tight and searchlight-wandering, an unrepeatable exhortation of something Benny Goodman might have nightmares about.
Medicina is a more recent session pairing Brötzmann with two Scandinavians, Peter Friis Nielsen (electric bass) and Peeter Uuskyla (drums), for a program of eight loose original sketches. The open sea between Germany and Scandinavia mellows the proceedings somewhat, as does the lack of an acoustic bottom. The threesome have heated dialogues, but the arguments are surprisingly kept to a minimum.
Live at Spruce Street Forum
Restraint is not why Brötzmann was asked to participate in Live at Spruce Street Forum in San Diego. Matched against altoist Marco Eneidi, bassist Lisle Ellis, pianist Cecil Taylor and drummer Jackson Krall, the five untitled improvisations are brain bleeders in the best sense of the term. When a band fully believes in itself and is willing to follow a guy with as bloody a brain as Brötzmann, the results are ecstatic, if not fit for the fainthearted.
Still Quite Popular After All These Years
The final entry, Still Quite Popular After All These Years, is a visitation with one of Brötzmann's oldest foils. Dutch drummer Han Bennink may be the most swinging free improvising percussionist out there. Despite what promises to be an LP (yes, LP!) of bombast, the results across six brief tracks are more English in their approach. Brötzmann is heard to great effect on clarinet and Bennink interchanges light rumbles with startling punctuations. These two bring out the best in each other.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: What A Day, First Part; What A Day, Second Part.
Personnel: Toshinori Kondo: trumpet; Johannes Bauer: trombone; Alan Tomlinson: trombone; Peter Brötzmann: clarinet, tenor sax, tarogato; Tony Coe: clarinet; J. D. Parran: clarinet; E. L. Petrowsky: clarinet; Louis Sclavis: clarinet, bass clarinet; John Zorn: clarinet, mouth pieces; William Parker: bass; Tony Oxley: drums.
Tracks: Rocket Tango; One, Two, Three, Free; Artemisia; Justicia; Some Ghosts Step Out; Here and Now; Bones and Beans; Hard Times Blues.
Personnel: Peter Brötzmann: alto and tenor saxophones, tarogato and A-clarinet; Peter Friis Nielsen: electric bass; Peeter Uuskyla: drums.
Live at Spruce Street Forum
Tracks: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5.
Personnel: Peter Brötzmann: saxophones, clarinet; Lisle Ellis: bass; Marco Eneidi: alto saxophone; Jackson Krall: drums.
Still Quite Popular After All These years
Tracks: 1. clarinet/drums; 2. tarogato/drums; 3. clarinet/drums; 4. clarinet/drums; 5. alto/drums; 6. tenor/drums.
Personnel: Peter Brötzmann: A-clarinet, taragoto, alto & tenor saxophones; Han Bennink: drum kit, voice.