It has been 24 years since these two musicians have engaged in a duo, or any other musical collaboration. The musical association of German multi-woodwind stalwart Peter Brötzmann with ever-eccentric Dutch drummer Han Bennink can be dated back to 1968, perhaps earlier. Together with Brötzman's octet, they would release one of the most overwhelming albums in jazz history: Machine Gun
. They would then form a trio with the Belgian pianist from the octet, Fred Van Hove, continuing with the same aesthetic presented on Balls
& The Berlin Concert
with trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff. After the demise of the trio, Bennink and Brötzmann would engage in various duos for FMP. Their last engagement was in 1980 with The Atsugi Concert.
Still Quite Popular is being released exclusively on LP from Brötzmann's BRO label (distributed by the American Eremite label), which was recently revived in 2003 with another woodwind/drum kit duo, The Ink is Gone, featuring bop drummer Walter Perkins. The album cover is quite the treat, featuring silkscreen & art contributed by both performers. The track titles are simply based on the selection of instrumentation of the musicians.
A concise solo by Bennink opens the set. Then Brötzmann enters with his A-clarinet, sustaining a note and then exploring rhythmic openings with the drummer. The reedist screeches as Bennink shares a set of flams on his snare drum. On the second track, Brötzmann explores swirling, extended phrases on his tarogato, with Bennink applying and sharing the energy. The third track, a quiet, meditative piece based on a repeating motif reminiscent of "Hard Times Blues from Brötzmann's Medicina, revisits Brötzmann's A-clarinet and finds Bennink exploring the tonal possibilities of his toms.
Side two, sort of a hybrid of the prior tracks of the same instrumentation, opens with A-clarinet and drums. It provides a good amount of volume but Brötzmann avoids screeching. The next piece (the lengthiest) finds Bennink crashing his cymbals; then Brötzmann enters with a cry from his alto as Bennink presents a sort of marching rhythm, then immediately shifts to an African rhythm as Brötzmann plays along. Later in the piece, Brötzmann enters with his tenor, playing a melody that depicts celebration and triumph over such a successful reunion. It also seems to pay homage to Albert Ayler.
It is great to hear two veterans of energy music reunite once again with such a successful endeavor. It is also quite astonishing they are still able to express themselves in such a relentless form. It seems that age isn't interfering one bit! This promising release from the beginning of 2005 anticipates what's in store from Brötzmann.