Without a doubt, the cooperative consisting of saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, pianist Fred Van Hove and drummer Han Bennink is one of the most celebrated, if not the most influential, free improv trios in Europe. Recorded for FMP three years after the group's astonishing and portentous 1970 debut, Balls
, this accurately titled record, known as FMP 130,
displays the trio at its apex. It is a resilient document containing compositionally condensed pieces that embrace a startlingly broad scope of textures and moods.
One of the ways that the group proves this is via expanded instrumentation, including Van Hove's celeste,Brötzmann's extended range of horns (including both bass and baritone sax) and Bennink's, well, heap of junk and various devices. Another key is that while the group was known for its lengthy sonic forays (Balls is a good example of this), FMP 130 is a ten-composition set of densely packed sound snippets that manage to capture the best of the collective.
The opening track, at a shade under four minutes, is a fine example of what one can expect here. Beginning with Van Hove's duet with himself (piano and celeste), Bennink soon joins in with his junkmeistering, while Brötzmann's baritone saxophone's craggy bursts ignite the drummer into a maelstrom of energy. These waves of force rise and fall from this point, gradually building up an intensity that resolves with Bennink's yell/chop, like a woodsman firing his axe down on a poor tree stump.
This track, as well as the others, indicates that Bennink is the obvious star of the program. Case in point being the album's second track, "Konzert Für 2 Klarinetten," which features Bennink on a "selfmade clarinet" in a duel with Brötzmann's fierce, four minute upper register squeal, seemingly close to being beyond recognition by the human ear. The trio does tread towards its signature fervent sound on "Nr. 7" with a gale force that will rip the paint off the walls.
On the other side of the coin, Van Hove consistently keeps things fresh, case in point being the boogie-woogie inspired "Wir Haben Uns Polgendes Uberlegt," initially a duet with Bennink until Brötzmann's solemn tenor joins the journey. As for the remainder, "Van Hove's "Gere BIJ" strikes one as a mixture of Duke and the classical masters which sets the stage for Bennink's trinkets and trash mélange and Brötzmann's garrulous alto sax expressionisms. Brötzmann's "Nr. 4" is also a hoot, initially fierce until Van Hove's burlesque/classical monkey wrenching takes over, to which Bennink responds with prickly, rubber band-like sounds. Finally, "Donaueschingen for Ever" has Bennink leading the fray with madman marimba/trash and other noisemakers, Brötzmann's reedy clarinet and Van Hove's elastic celeste.
This record presents plenty of surprises that may appeal to a wide variety of listeners and surely it is essential for followers of these renegade musicians. Although I still wouldn't say that this is accessible per se, it is perhaps the most concise and focused work this group ever recorded. Bravo again goes to Atavistic for its FMP Archive Editions.