Peter Brötzmann in a duo format brings out the best of Peter Brötzmann. Yes, but maybe of greater import, the duo also ennobles his improvising partner. Not that cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm needs the accolades. He has been front-and-center of the creative music scene for more than three decades, collaborating with the likes of Joe McPhee, Ken Vandermark, Dave Rempis and as a leader of his own trio, quartet, and The Lightbox Orchestra. His history has also been intertwined with that of Brötzmann, in the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet and ADA trio with Paal Nilssen-Love.
The saxophonist's work in duos is generally recognized for his recordings with drummers such as Han Bennink, Hamid Drake, Nasheet Waits, Peeter Uuskyla, and the aforementioned Nilssen-Love. But, of late, he has diversified into duos with pedal steel guitarist Heather Leigh, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, and Lonberg-Holm. Together, Brötzmann and Lonberg-Holm have released two excellent prior duos, the CD The Brain Of the Dog in Sections (Atavistic, 2009) and LP Ouroboros (Astral Spirits/Monofonus Press, 2018). This latest CD, Memories of a Tunicate, may be the jewel in their crown.
With the cellist in a studio, the possibilities sound endless. Credit is due to Lonberg-Holm's liberal use of electronics. Against Brötzmann's muscular saxophone, the cellist can bring a saturating wall of sound to parry that machine gun attack. This music is, though, not a face-off but a flow. Blasts of sound are tagged and escorted rather than opposed. Like the individual track titles, which are names of obscure sea creatures, the music is designed (actually, improvised) to be shrouded and a bit surprising. Brötzmann often draws from melancholic extended technique with an old soul's blue feel. For his part, Lonberg-Holm bows and plucks his cello, expanding it into a violin, bass or an electric guitar sound, accented at times with shards of industrial noise. This is one entertaining and exhausting recording.
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