It is rare, in this new century, for us to look back at the significant recordings of living artists. The powers that be seem to always be pushing out new product to support a tour and get media attention. Then of course, once the artist has passed on, let the reissue series begin. Thank God for labels like Hatology and their commitment to keeping the music alive.
This recording by Peter Brötzmann and Joe McPhee with bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Michael Zerang from 2002 was originally issued in an edition of 3,000 and it has, in the last few years, been a rare commodity. Back again, in its second edition, the music is compelling and maintains its creative urgency.
Turning our time machine back to 1997, Brotzmann, with the assistance of saxophonist Ken Vandermark, created his Chicago Tenet among others, the players heard here. Through various performances and tours, the large ensemble released a dozen recordings and a concert video. Each performance elevated the two elder musicians McPhee (b. 1939) and Brotzmann (b. 1941) to superstar celebrity status (if there is such a thing in avant-garde circles). Labels, like Hatology and Atavistic reissued long out of print music from the artists vinyl days with FMP, BRÖ, and CjR.
The contrast to the Tentet's music is striking. The music draws from ballads, tradition music and sort-of standards. To hear Brotzmann's tenor and McPhee's trumpet on the Gospel hymn "Blessed Assurance" is to reach back to the music of Albert and Don Ayler. The two tenor attack of "Stone Poem No. 2" wraps both players serpent-like sounds round-and-round each other and McPhee's pocket cornet introduction, played over the deep woody bass of Kessler, to "Something There Is That Doesn't Love" is a mini-lecture on rhythm, pulse, and extended technique. When Brotzmann and Zerang enter, the lecture turns into debate and ultimately a gentle resolution. There's fireworks here "Master Of A Small House," but also more intimate music-making, like Zerang's "Cymbalism" and the meditative "From Now Till Doomsday."
The music was worthy of five stars back in 2004, and it maintains an elevated status today.
Track Listing: Stone Poem No. 1; Something There Is That Doesn't Love; Master Of A Small House;
Cymbalism; Alto Lightning In A Violin House; From Now Till Doomsday; Did You Still Love
Me/Did I Ever?; Blessed Assurance; Pieces Of Red, Green And Blue; Stone Poem No. 2.
Personnel: Peter Brotzmann: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Joe McPhee: tenor saxophone,
pocket cornet, trumpet; Kent Kessler: double bass; Michael Zerang: drums, percussion.
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