Nearly a quarter century after recording The "WELS" Concert (Okka, 1997), saxophonist Peter Brötzmann reconvened a three-continent trio to deliver a remarkable set of ecstatic-trance music. His European free jazz met American drummer Hamid Drake and African Gnawa music master Maâlem Moukhtar Gania at the AngelicA, Festival Internazionale di Musica in Bologna, Italy in 2019. Same amazing lineup (almost) and same amazing result.
"Almost the same lineup" because vocalist and guembri musician Maâlem Moukhtar Gania replaced his father Maleem Mahmoud Ghania (1951-2015) in Bologna. Like his father, Gania is representative of a legendary line of Gnawa music masters, performing on the traditional three-stringed lute, an instrument his father utilized with Brötzmann, Pharoah Sanders, and Bill Laswell.
The music occupies a space beyond world music and, in some ways, outside of free jazz. Sure, we hear that familiar Brötzmann plaintive cry throughout, but the rhythms delivered by Drake and Gania are so mesmerizing, both to the listener andmaybe more importantlyBrötzmann, that this live date takes on a hypnotic atmosphere. The opening track, at more than 30 minutes, acts as a reveal for the trio. The pulse of Drake and Gania tames the patented bluster of Brötzmann, making for a charming listen, an adjective hardly ever applied to the saxophonist's work. Throughout, Gania chants and sings in the Gnawa tradition which moves the music further and further East. Such is the back-and-forth. "Almost With The Sun" grapples with an American blues feel with African overtones, before Brötzmann heads East himself on "Sound That Shimmers" with his taragato, the Romanian wooden instrument. His dolorous shouts fuel the rhythm section, awakening both pulse and vocals. The sounds are simultaneously foreign and familiar to the Western (and Eastern) ear. Amazing stuff.
The Catch Of A Ghost; Almost With The Sun; Sound That Shimmers; Dip And Dive.