The sextet responsible for Unlawful Noise
stands out because four of the players (Kees Hazevoet, Peter Bennink, Peter Brotzmann, and Han Bennink) are white and hail from Europe while the remaining two (Johnny Dyani and Louis Moholo) are black musicians who were born in South Africa. The fact that this music, recorded on October 27, 1976, came at least a full decade before Apartheid began to dissipate on any significant level turns this material into a powerful political statement even if politics are not overtly part of the music or the packaging.
That said, nobody should mistake these results of Amsterdam session as primarily anything other than artistic. Although there are noticeable spots where individual reedists shine, many of the most exhilarating moments on Unlawful Noise come when three or four of them unite in bursts of sonic joy. The fury on exhibit here might not be revolutionary anymore but it is without doubt not for the faint of heart, especially when Peter Bennink breaks out the bagpipes, and it remains nearly impossible to discern who is playing what for ears not better trained than mine. Moholo delivers blistering patterns akin to that Rashied Ali and Sunny Murray but with a greater sense of rhythm if not outright swing. Hearing him beat the hell out of his cymbals at the end of the first track will do the soul some good.
Dyani's work on the upright is the greatest disappointment on this release although perhaps the output shouldn't be surprising given that he has usually shined in more lyrical settings. His playing isn't so much bad as it is just lost in the mix. Save for a moment or two when this late master gets to play with minimal or no accompaniment, listeners will have to focus in on him to tell what he is doing and even then are unlikely to be impressed. The piano work of Hazevoet suffers a slightly different fate. He bangs away but always seems to be playing catch up to the two entities -the horn line and Moholo- that sound as if they are directing the music.
These flaws hardly seem important on the whole, however, as the real strength of this music comes in the aggregate. The energy of this group is truly incredible and will likely cause waves of both emotion and thought in receptive listeners. The most glaring defect of Unlawful Noise is that the first track ends abruptly and while the musicians are in the middle of playing. After the brief wall of silence comes "Agitprop Bounce" which truthfully sound as if it might be from the same jam although that is just a guess on my part. Atavistic deserves praise for reissuing this recording because, as John Corbett mentions in the notes, the only previous issue of this music e was a small batch of records in 1976.
It should be noted that although he is credited with the leading this group, that Hazevoet is by the far the least celebrated of these players. This appears to be primarily the result of his inactivity over the last two decades or so. Corbett explains that he was a major figure in the Dutch free improv scene in the 1960s and 1970s but gave that up for a career as a bioacoustics (the study of the sounds made by living organisms, that is). Hazevoet has published in this field and taught, studied, and conducted research in the several continents and currently works as a museum director in Spain. Perhaps this explains why musicians in this field all too often sound like squawking birds. Atavistic
Personnel: Kees Hazevoet - piano, b-flat clarinet; Peter Bennink - alto & soprano saxophone, bagpipes; Peter Brotzmann - tenor saxophone, e-flat & b-flat clarinet; Han Bennink - e-flat, be-flat, & bass clarinet, percussion; Johnny Dyani - bass; Louis Moholo - drums.