Talk about the rarest of the rare. This disc, another glorious entry on John Corbett's new Unheard series, unearths one of the most whispered and wondered about documents of the then burgeoning European improvisers union. It stands alongside such other cardinal classics as Brötzmann's Machine Gun as an aural manifesto of entire musical movement first carved out in the 1960s, which still survives today, albeit in somewhat canonized form. In the ensuing years after this couplet of sessions was recorded alliances between the players shifted, reformed and multiplied, and all are now considered legends in the annals of improvised music. Brötzmann's ruminative liners included with a facsimile of the original LP booklet (a collection of grainy photos from the sessions that look more like charcoal etchings) reflect upon the passage of time and the ways in which both his own life and those of his partners have changed. Sounding off his stature as a musician who still has much to say he also takes the opportunity to cast a hopeful gaze to the future.
It was recordings like this one that Brötzmann and his peers first garnered the reductionist reputation as "angry young men." Considering the comparative lack of precedent for what they were doing it's easy to see why their work raised such animosity in certain circles. However, time has proven the tonic against these kinds of reactionary appraisals and listening to the material today it's telling how well their early music together has aged.
Two lengthy pieces form the meat and the gristle, the first with full sextet, the second with a pared down core quartet. On the title piece Niebergall's bow guts his instrument with violent jabs, eviscerating damaged rhythmic ribbons from its wooden innards in erratic confluence with Bailey's spiky accents and the careening combination of Van Hove and Bennink. I'm no expert on either player, but of the horns it sounds as if Parker arrives first, blasting forth a tangle of turbid lines before Brötzmann's clipped honks make an abrupt entrance beside him. There's a moment about three minutes into the maelstrom where everyone drops out save the pair who engage in a brief, but explosive contest of saxophonic physiques. Though their initial joust ends in a stalemate it serves as an effective precedent for the further clashes to come. Van Hove's chattering piano is almost a calming force rising above the avalanche of percussive energy crashes out of Bennink's kit, but the din is at times so thunderous that Bailey's patented volume pedal effects are drowned out in the molten dirge of instruments. Brötzmann's raw, lung rending lines spit out metallic shards of multiphonics and Parker's twisting overblown exclamations offer up a vehement retort. Giving evidence that this isn't just a free-for-all blowout later sections of the piece aren't as overtly militant such a stretch toward the close where Bailey's staccato figures mesh in rising and falling alien rapport with the rest of the "rhythm" section.
"Tell a Green Man" builds from the restless chatter of popping strings and piecemeal percussion. Bennink's devil may care drumming bangs out a loose choppy cadence and Niebergall's plucked string bursts answer with in a wash of fractured bass figures. Brötzmann finally plows through the turbulent tide chewing off chunks of snarling phrases before it's Van Hove's turn at dismantling any sense of conventional structure. Brötzmann eventually returns to take things out in an abrupt close leaving anyone with open ears craving for more. Some may balk at the disc's running time and consider it brief, but be forewarned- all of the fervor, defiance and angst that was the social, emotional and political climate of the world in 1969 is bottled up in these 34 minutes. When it's uncorked through the simple and innocent act of pressing the play button on a stereo be prepared for the ear-opening consequences.
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