Peter BrŲtzmann Chicago Tentet: American Landscapes 1 & 2

Mark Corroto By

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The milestones of the 66 year old German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann's career are a useful device by which to review his prolific and passionate music making. From early experiments with Alexander von Schlippenbach and the Globe Unity Orchestra, he gained jazz infamy with an octet recording called Machine Gun (FMP, 1968). Aptly named, the unrelenting surge of three saxophones (Brötzmann, Evan Parker and Willem Breuker) over piano, double drummers and double bassists, announced a new energy in European free music—one that eclipsed the fervor of the American "new thing" begun by saxophonists Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp.

Brötzmann went on to record solo records and historic sessions with Parker, drummer Han Bennink and guitarist Derek Bailey. He has always been known as a strong player able to hold his own in large groups and against electric instruments, including the rock-influenced Last Exit with drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson, guitarist Sonny Sharrock and bassist Bill Laswell.

Ten years ago, writer John Corbett organized another version of Brötzmann's Octet/Tentet on one of Brötzmann's trips to Chicago. Not quite the reprise of Machine Gun, the elder statesman was joined by his contemporary, trumpeter Joe McPhee, and a cast of much younger Chicago musicians, plus Sweden's free jazz star, baritone and slide saxophonist Mats Gustafsson.

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet

American Landscapes 1



American Landscapes 1 and 2 are live dates from 2006. While there have been a few personnel changes since the original line-up—trombonist Hannes Bauer replacing Jeb Bishop and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love replacing Hamid Drake—the core Tentet has remained intact. Both discs are comprised of a single track, clocking in at respectively about 44 and 52 minutes. Both discs are difficult to digest as single entities: attacking them as longer composed/improvised pieces linked by changes allows you better to appreciate the whole.

The first disc begins as a probing orchestral work, until the momentum picks up and the intensity increases. Instruments sound off and the drummers settle into a solid groove marked by Brötzmann's muscular tenor saxophone and the lyrical response of Ken Vandermark's clarinet. All this toe tapping is soon discouraged by the Tentet's group dissonance. Observant fans can pick through the saxophone/vocal calls of Mats Gustafsson, the guitar chords of Fred Lonberg-Holm's cello and the double thunder of drummers Nilssen-Love and Michael Zerang.

All this can be quite overbearing, a la Machine Gun, but Brötzmann's recent compositions allow for quiet resolutions and improvised interludes that pair players up (McPhee's trumpet and Gustafsson's slide saxophone are well coupled). But always there is the power of the bigger group lurking. It bubbles up repeatedly, offering the crowd what they've come for. But tucked inside the thunder are composed lines that sway and sizzle.

Nearly 30 minutes into this first disc, Brötzmann brings one of many cathartic releases forth as everyone lays out except the drummers. The forward motion pauses as cymbals are scraped and snares teased. Bassist Kent Kessler then makes a remark eliciting probing thrusts from saxophone and cello, some forming a duo with Ken Vandermark playing an Evan Parker-like series of chirping notes. The energy music soon returns, to be resolved by Brötzmann's tarogato conjuring thoughts of John Coltrane's "India.

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet

American Landscapes 2



American Landscapes 2 ramps up the intensity slowly and with the clear objective to display power and a thorough sense of control. The first 13 minutes come at you sounding like a forest fire churning with stored energy. Underneath this unfurling force are composed parts that are revealed through close inspection. Once the energy breaks a trombone/saxophone duo stops the presses and summons a simple chamber horn interlude with other brass walking in. The piece wanders a bit into more open free passages that allow for individual statements from Bauer, Lonberg-Holm, Gustafsson, Kessler and McPhee.

Unlike other Tentet recordings where he shared composing responsibility, both of these lengthy tracks were composed by Brötzmann alone. They showcase his love of dense, ferocious compositions and the purification found on the release of that energy.

Tracks and Personnel

American Landscapes 1

Tracks: American Landscapes 1.

Personnel: Peter Brötzmann: clarinet, tarogato, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Mats Gustafsson: baritone saxophone, slide saxophone; Ken Vandermark: clarinet, baritone saxophone, tenor saxophone; Joe McPhee: trumpet, alto saxophone; Hannes Bauer: trombone; Per-Ake Holmlander: tuba; Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello; Kent Kessler: bass; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums; Michael Zerang: drums. .

American Landscapes 2

Tracks: American Landscapes 2.

Personnel: as above.

Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Okka Disk | Style: Modern Jazz


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