Pica Pica is an all-star affair featuring the trio of Peter Brötzmann (reeds), Albert Mangelsdorff (trombone) and Gunter Sommer (drums), originally recorded in 1982 at Jazzfest Unna in Germany. Dug out of the FMP archives for Atavistic's Unheard Music Series, Pica Pica is now available here in the States.
The pairing of Mangelsdorff, an innovator on trombone through his use of polyphonics, with the gut busting, reed-biting tenor of Brötzmann is intriguing to say the least. Not to say that Brötzmann is any less technically sound than Mangelsdorff, but the elder trombonist clearly has pedigree in the classical tradition of his instrument and thus has a, let's say, calming affect on his counterpart.
And that's not to say Brötzmann doesn't blow his heart out on Pica Picahe most certainly does that. Jesus, a mere three minutes into "Instant Tears he's wailing, exorcising the ghost of Albert Ayler or conjuring images of contemporaries like Anthony Braxton or Ken Vandermark. But mere seconds later, the moment is more subdued, and Mangelsdorff takes the lead.
What makes Pica Pica so amazing is not that Brötzmann backs off or confines himself to give Mangelsdorff space. The trombonist offers respite to the fits of aggression from the saxophonist, and Brötzmann can't help but adapt to the repetitive accompaniment of Mangelsdorff, which makes Pica Pica far more listenable than much of Brötzmann's catalog.
Brötzmann is fantastic in support of Mangelsdorff, when he chooses to do that. Whereas Mangelsdorff never seems to stop playing, with a note here or there while Brötzmann and Sommer get lost in their own world, Brötzmann on the other hand seems to just stop playing when Mangelsdorff solos. Maybe this is best, as Brötzmann's meaty tone would surely overpower the sometimes delicate Mangelsdorff.
Sommer's drumming gets busier on "Wie Due Mir, So Ich Dir Noch Lange Nicht, filling in the empty space behind Mangelsdorff and Brötzmann with snare rolls and rudimentary exhibition. It's hard to tell throughout Pica Pica whether Sommer's low levels in the mix are a result of live recording methods or if the drummer just plain plays soft. And if the case is the latter, kudos to Sommer for not trying to compete with Brotzmann in volume. Mangelsdorff's multiphonics on "Wie Due Mir are magnificent, so much so that the listener can actually ignore Brötzmann's alto sax, which here sounds like he is strangling a small puppy.
The fifteen-minute "Instant Tears and "Wie Due Mir are followed by the briefly entertained title track, which closes the session perfectly. "Pica Pica is more playful than the two previous pieces; Sommer almost sounds like he's trying to swing on his ride cymbal.
More avant-garde classical than jazz per se, Pica Pica is an outstanding addition to the Atavistic catalog and another great release from the often unheralded, and even sometimes discredited, Brötzmann.
Personnel: Peter Brotzmann: alto, tenor and baritone saxophones; Albert Mangelsdorff: trombone;
Gunter Sommer: drums.