Peter Brotzmann: The Fat Is Gone, At Molde 2007, Born Broke, One Night in Burmantofts & Headfirst Into the Flames


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Peter Brotzmann/Mats Gustafsson/Paal Nilssen-Love
The Fat Is Gone
Smalltown Superjazz

Chicago Tentet
At Molde 2007
Okka Disk

Peter Brotzmann/Peeter Uuskyla
Born Broke

Peter Brotzmann/Alan Wilkinson Quartet
One Night in Burmantofts
Bo Weavil

Last Exit
Headfirst Into the Flames

In contrast to the previous 30 years of extreme saxophone on which Peter Brïtzmann's reputation has been built, much has been made of the relative quietude, almost tenderness, that has lately come to characterize his playing. It stands to reason that at 67, all that blowing may have started to take its toll on a man's lungs, not to mention his blood vessels.

Just the opposite seems to be the case on The Fat Is Gone, recorded live at the Molde Jazz Festival in Norway in 2006. Beginning with the 10-minute "Bullets Through Rain," Brïtzmann's playing is as dense and as hard as ever, shadowed by a slightly deferential Mats Gustafsson, who strains the upper limits of his baritone and the assaultive, relentless drumming of Paal Nilssen-Love. The players occasionally break the momentum for a series of pops, squeals and general skittering, but the moments of rest only add to the pressurized environment, as you anticipate the next onslaught.

Logic might tell you that the more free jazz players you have in one spot, the greater the volume and intensity will be, but At Molde 2007 the Chicago Tentet turned in a textured performance that touches on the language of American jazz and European classical forms through the use of multilayered voices and nuanced interplay. In addition to the mainstays on the frontline (Brïtzmann, Ken Vandermark, Gustafsson, Joe McPhee), this edition of the Tentet features electro-cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, who along with bassist Kent Kessler does the work of a symphonic string section. The 40-minute "Ten by Ten" would be a satisfying album on its own, but at Molde the band played two more pieces, both nearly as expansive and spacious as the opener.

Stripped down from the trio that recorded Medicina, Brïtzmann and drummer Peeter Uuskyla reentered a studio in Sweden to record Born Broke, 90 minutes of hard-hitting improv spread over two discs that, if anything, demonstrates Brïtzmann hasn't lost his endurance, even if he has lost his inclination to go all out on every cut. Uuskyla establishes a tribal groove on the title track and Brïtzmann charges in, then pulls back to insinuate himself more casually into the rhythm stream. "Beautiful But Stupid" ends with a folkish melody ï la Ayler, while "Dead and Useless" on disc two is built around an anguished melody that is as close to a torch song as Brïtzmann ever gets.

One Night in Burmantofts digs into the archives for a collaboration between Brïtzmann and the Alan Wilkinson Trio, recorded live on Wilkinson's home turf of Leeds, England in 1996. Brïtzmann is at full strength, using single sustained breaths to dictate the lengths of his statements on tenor, clarinet and tarogato. On alto and baritone, Wilkinson at first mirrors Brïtzmann, then the two horns come together and move apart at unpredictable intervals. Bassist Simon H. Fell is the wild card, keeping the rhythm section on pace with his fingers, or mimicking the sound effects of the horns with tricks of the bow, increasing the amount of color and shade often absent from other dates.

The skronking, proto-heavy metal improvs of Last Exit were completely spontaneous and consequently, best captured live. Headfirst into the Flames finds the group in Stockholm and Munich in 1989 with the guitar of Sonny Sharrock in the lead, throwing shards of sound and slicing his way across tempos spun out in continuous rolls from drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson. Brïtzmann's reeds play counterpoint to the guitar, bassist Bill Laswell's usually thick presence on the low end isn't as prominent as one might expect and the band doesn't quite shock like it used to. But for pure, unadulterated power and energy, Last Exit in full bloom is hard to beat.

In spite of actively performing and recording since he debuted with his octet on 1968's seminal Machine Gun, until the end of the '90s Peter Brïtzmann's CDs weren't easy to come by. But these days, historic recordings surface regularly and Brïtzmann himself is a gunslinger, riding from town to town all over the US and Europe with his horns, sitting in on stage with his acolytes in a variety of lineups. The man can barely moisten his reed without someone rolling tape.

Tracks and Personnel

The Fat Is Gone

Tracks: Bullets Through Rain; Colours in Action; The Fat Is Gone.

Personnel: Peter Brotzmann: reeds; Mats Gustafsson: reeds; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums.

At Molde 2007

Tracks: Ten By Ten; Little By Little; Step By Step.

Personnel: Joe McPhee: reeds, trumpet; Peter Brotzmann: reeds; Kent Kessler: bass; Michael Zerang: drums; Johannes Bauer: trombone; Per Ake Holmlander: tuba; Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello; Mats Gustafsson: reeds; Ken Vandermark: reeds; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums.

Born Broke

Tracks: Born Broke; Beautiful But Stupid; Ain't Got the Money; Dead and Useless.

Personnel: Peter Brotzmann: reeds; Peeter Uuskyla: drums.

One Night in Burmantofts

Tracks: Greetings Herr B and Herr K; Cormorant Number Two; Bird Flew; All Back to Paul's.

Personnel: Peter Brotzmann: tenor, clarinet, taragato; Alan Wilkinson: alto, baritone; Willi Kellers: drums; Simon H. Fell: bass.

Headfirst Into the Flames

Tracks: Lizard Eyes; Don't Be a Baby Whatever You Do; So Small, So Weak, This Bloody Sweat of Loving; Headfirst Into the Flames; A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows; Jesus! What Gorgeous Monkeys We Are; Hanged Men Are Always Naked; No One Knows Anything; I Must Confess I'm a Cannibal.

Personnel: Peter Brotzmann: reeds; Sonny Sharrock: guitar; Bill Laswell: bass; Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums.


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