In the late spring of 2000, while in the midst of grueling tour with his tentet, Peter Brötzmann received some sobering news. Werner Lüdi, saxophonist, fellow improviser, and friend had passed away. Lüdi had been an infrequent collaborator of Brötzmann's over the years but the two men shared an endemic musical vision as early insurgents in the European free jazz explosion of the late 1960s. While Lüdi dropped in and out of the music, Brötzmann soldiered on swiftly acquiring the coarse and uncompromising reputation as brow-furrowed Teuton that still dogs and precedes him today; but neither man lost his edge or overpowering drive for unpolished creative expression. Hence why the naked emotion of this solitary homage makes so much sense. One man paying respects to another in the most forthright and warmhearted way- through the music each loves.
Brötzmann's solo recordings open apertures into the man's music that are obscured in any other setting. Removed from every exterior distraction his individual improvisations carry a weight and pathos sometimes subsumed in the presence of his peers. With ownership of all temporal space under his belt he seems most willing to test the limits of his endurance and acumen. The counterweight, of course, is that the only one to goad him onward is himself. No sounding boards or spurring partners, just the momentum of his own imagination to fuel his inventions and there are moments few and far between on this set where the creative flames flicker a shade.
The fabled Brötzophone is absent but most of the other troops in the German's reed barracks are in ranks for the dedicatory barrage. Raw irriguous breath is transformed through metal ligatures and tubing into a textured braiding of passionate release. Brötzmann's bass clarinet channels Tuvan-like overtones on "The Rain Went On and On" scattering gelid streaks against a canvas of silence. Belching bass sax blurts out seesawing tones that hang in the air and dissipate like chalky smoke halos. Braying tenor rends a thematic line to tatters on the fiercely overblown onslaught of "Go On For Long In Any Way." Giuffrian clarinet weaves a wood nymph spell through the haunting melancholy of "There Were Tears In Her Eyes." These are but snapshots of pieces that defy all but subjective description. Endeavoring to dissect them down into the precise descriptors of formal terminology and discern meaning through these means is a task certain to be met by crushing defeat.
Brötzmann is telling tales steeped in his own vernacular; technical virtuosity is either an afterthought or one not even worth thinking. What seems to matter most is that the emotional and visceral essence of each is made manifest and conveyed. L?di, looking down from the great beyond, would no doubt be pleased.
Personnel: Peter Brötzmann - tenor & bass saxophones, bass clarinet & C-clarinet.
Recorded: August 19 & 20, 2000, Berlin, Germany.