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Peter Brötzmann / Heather Leigh: Ears Are Filled With Wonder

John Sharpe By

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Iconoclastic German reedman Peter Brötzmann has appeared in almost every conceivable combination and circumstance over the years, from the maelstrom of Last Exit to the austere horn choir of Sonore, via hook ups with almost everyone in between, counting such free jazz luminaries as Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton and Evan Parker. However on Ears Are Filled With Wonder, recorded during the German's residency in Krakow during November 2015, he finds an unlikely accomplice in Glasgow-based American pedal steel guitarist Heather Leigh.

Self taught, Leigh has operated in the noise and avant rock fields for several decades including with the likes of drummer Chris Corsano, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Wolf Eyes' John Olson. While this may have been only her second engagement with Brötzmann, the pair has since toured in both the US and Europe, demonstrating that they have unearthed a rich motherlode.

The single 28-minute piece opens with Brötzmann's familiar clarion cry, ringing out on tarogato like a cross between an air raid klaxon and a call to prayer. His broad vibrato produces singing harmonics, as he is joined by shimmering pedal steel itself generating further copious overtones which blend eerily accentuated by a resonant performance space in the legendary Alchemia club. Leigh complements Brötzmann measure for measure. Brötzmann's wavering sighs signal a pause, but when Leigh shifts to a deep bass twang, he rejoins more anguished than before, while Leigh matches his banshee wail with her own keening thrum.

The reedman noticeably moderates his playing to the situation, forgoing his lung-busting outpourings, while Leigh proves a revelation in what her instrument can accomplish in this setting. She often favors a sustained legato approach in contrast to Brötzmann's staccato attack and insistent howl. When Leigh develops a rhythmic motif, Brötzmann essays variations on his "Master of a Small House" melody (a favorite ever since its inclusion on Tales Out Of Time (Hatology, 2004) with Joe McPhee).

Their dialogue ebbs and flows until Brötzmann switches to bass clarinet to mine a seam of a gruff fruity lyricism, accompanied by chiming pedal steel for an almost gentle conclusion. While perhaps Leigh could have been more challenging, she achieves an equable accommodation with the veteran reedman which makes for a concise but compelling album.

Track Listing: Ears Are Filled With Wonder.

Personnel: Peter Brötzmann: tenor saxophone; tarogato; bass and Bb clarinets; Heather Leigh: pedal steel guitar.

Title: Ears Are Filled With Wonder | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Not Two Records


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