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Contrary to its attendant acclaim, Peter Brötzmann's seminal Machine Gun was not the German's debut recording as a leader. That historic honor belongs to what many perhaps still consider a perverse homage to his principle instrument's inventor, also originally circulated on the FMP imprint. Both the Panzer intensity and stentorian belligerence are securely in place on this earlier outing and judging from the generous photos that line the reissue's notes the Wuppertalian populace wasn't sure what to make of these lads either. Revisiting these sounds now aged over three decades (but every bit as relevant) public rancor and disdain may seem understandable given the canonical forces that still guide some strains of improvised music, but hardly deserved.
The excoriating string of saxophone bursts that opens the record disperse swiftly into a highly percussive dance between thrumming bass strings and pattering stick-activated cymbals and snare. Brötzmann can't hold silent for long, and his renal siren erupts again in a flood of ruddy shrieks. Johannson breaks off minutes later in a tumbling traps-borne foray, pregnant with press rolls of all varieties while Kowald answers in a bowed retort that worries the same small region of his bridge shearing off aural sparks in process. His arco technique is only a shadow of what it would later become, but as a responsive element in these unrepentant energy music surroundings it serves in good stead. Br?tzmann soon returns possessed by a ferocious fury, his cloven lines skidding and squealing against the oblique rhythmic surface of his partners and rising and falling in stridulent streaks. An abrupt end caps the improvisation with a corrugated edge of uncertainty.
The album's flipside weds two shorter cuts: the almost gradual contemplations of "Sanity" that ends in a conflagration of and a return to high-caliber horn histrionics "Morning Glory." Both demonstrate a layered use of dynamics and even silence in a way that runs directly in the face of those detractors who claimed (and continue to claim) that the German is all about full frontal assault at the expense of subterfuge and subtlety. The folks at UMS, always generous with unearthed treasures, have tacked on a fourth track. Taped for posterity by Radio Bremen, the tumultuous piece adds pianist Van Hove, who would soon join Brötzmann's next trio project with Han Bennink. Sound throughout the entire disc is surprisingly crisp and direct- proof that the UMS/FMP partnership is certain to bear further fruit in the future. Recommending this reissue to fans of the mustachioed German's work comes easy; the real revelation is that listeners less familiar with his legendary brio are likely to deem it essential as well.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.