Reviews that mention Peter Brötzmann

November 21, 2020

European Echoes: Jazz Experimentation in Germany 1950-1975

By Harald Kisedu
Wolke Verlage

By Ken Waxman

Like many other countries in the Western world, Germany developed its variant of improvised music after records by Free Jazz pioneers such as Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and Albrt Ayler became generally available. But the response by committed sound explorers to these sounds created by mostly African-American musicians was more diffuse than in other places. Not only were progressive German musicians confronted with a novel mutation of the Jazz they had followed for many years, but they also had to deal with it alongside specific extra-musical matters. MORE

June 16, 2020

Big Bad Brötzmann Quintet

Euphorium Records Euph 066

At this point in a career that has lasted almost 60 years there’s very little that can be said about German multi-reedist Peter Brötzmann, 78. He also seems to have played with enough other improvisers to populate a metropolis as large as his native Wuppertal. Yet as someone who prides himself on always giving his all during improvisation he can be roused to new levels of improvisation. So that’s what happened during this concert with what was dubbed the Big Bad Brötzmann Quintet. MORE

February 8, 2020

El Intruso’s

12th Annual International Critics Poll
Ken Waxman’s 2019 ballot

Musician of the year: Joe McPhee

Newcomer Musician: Timothée Quost, Gaspard Beck

Group of the year: Roots Magic, Tonus, Joe McPhee Trio

Newcomer group: MétamOrphée

Album of the year: Quatuor de Jazz Libre Du Québec, Musique Politique Anthologie 1971-1974 (Tour de Bras) Uri Caine, The Passion of Octavius Catto (816 Music)

Composer: Roscoe Mitchell, Uri Caine, Harris Eisenstad

Drums; Gerald Cleaver, Steve Noble, Tim Daisy

Acoustic Bass Joëlle Léandre, Barry Guy, Barre Phillips MORE

January 23, 2020


Fifty Years After... Live at the Lila Eule
Trost TR 194

Evan Parker/Agustí Fernández/Ivo Sans


Vector Sounds V5023

Working within the particular structures of a double bass-less trio are two significant woodwind voices who have helped define the course of free improvisation for more than half a century each. Locations outlines the adaptability of British tenor saxophonist Evan Parker, 75, as he applies his specific reed strategies to seven improvisations with two younger Catalans, pianist Agustí Fernández, who he often plays with, and drummer Ivo Sans, who is a long-time Barcelona associate of the pianist. MORE

October 13, 2019

ICP 10-tet

Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 060


Day Two

NoBusiness Records CD 114

Jimmy Giuffe3

Graz Live 1961

ezz-thetics 1001

Keith Tippett

The Unlonely Raindancer

Discus 81 CD

Sounds of Liberation

Sounds of Liberation

Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 057

Something in the Air: Reassessing 1960s, 1970s and 1980s Jazz through via New Reissues

By Ken Waxman

Reissues of recorded music serve a variety of functions. Allowing us to experience sounds from the past is just one of them. More crucially, and this is especially important in terms of Free Jazz and Free Music, it restores to circulation sounds that were overlooked and/or spottily distributed on first appearance. Listening to those projects now not only provides an alternate view of musical history, but in many cases also provides a fuller understanding of music’s past. MORE

February 6, 2019

Instant Composers Pool

Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsDCD056

Milford Graves


Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsDCD052

Roscoe Mitchell


Delmark DE 4408

Bobby Naughton/Leo Smith/Perry Robinson

The Haunt

NoBusiness Records NBCD 105

Cosmic Forest

The Spiritual Sounds of MPS

MPS 4029759122562

Something in the Air: CD Reissues help define the massive musical changes of the 1960s and 1970s

By Ken Waxman

As the advances musical and otherwise that transformed the 1960s and 1970s recede into history new considerations of what happened during those turbulent times continually appear. Reissues of advanced music recorded during that time, some needlessly obscure, some better known, help fill in the details of exactly what happened. MORE

January 16, 2018


Exit to Now and Harri Sjöström/Peter Brötzmann
Improvising Beings ib56

Like different compounds introduced to a chemical formula that when mixed can result in unexpected outcomes, so can the changing of only one contributor on a session of improvised music. A quicksilver, cerebral and collected program results when the Swiss-Italian XOL trio recorded CD1 with veteran Finnish soprano saxophonist Harri Sjöström. There’s no loss of sonic savvy on CD2, but when the trio meets up with German tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Peter Brötzmann the formula is altered to become more jagged and explosive. MORE

December 21, 2017

Guelph Jazz Festival

September 13-17, 2017
By Ken Waxman

Striding confidentially towards its 2018 silver anniversary, this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF) was invigorated with choice concerts throughout this Ontario college town. There were artists from the United States and Europe, yet two of the notable performances were from Canadian bands. Underlying their set at the Silence arts space September 15 with processed whooshes, pulses and hums, the Montreal-based members of Jane and the Magic Banana (JMB) found that sweet spot where punk attitude, tremolo oscillations and free experimentation locked together. Consisting of guitarist Sam Shalabi, electric bassist Alexandre St-Onge and drummer Michel F. Côté, all of whom used electronic processing JMB set was characterized by quick manipulation of a continuous drone which never sacrificed narrative for effects. Two nights later at the Cooperators Hall (CH), River Run Centre the Medham quartet playing a bracing set which nearly overwhelmed with ingenuity while adhering most closely to jazz conventions. With one dozen tunes given body by steady slaps or buzzing Arco from bassist Nicolas Caloia matched by the patterning groove from drummer Isaiah Ciccarelli, these two Montrealers, plus a third, growling baritone saxophonist Jason Sharp provided the backing and in Sharp’s rippling blasts, the challenge, to Vancouver-based violinist Josh Zubot’s slick, staccato horn-like sweeps. Dazzling as he swept or plucked his strings as the rhythm section output a connective beat, the violinist replied in kind to any sonic provocation from the others. MORE

November 6, 2017

Defibrillator & Peter Brötzmann

Conversations About Not Eating Meat
Border of Silence: BOS 001

The Clarinet Trio plus Alexey Kruglov

Live in Moscow

Leo Records CD LR 781


Ghost Lights

Songlines 1621-2

Fiil Free

Everything is a Translation

Fiil Free Records FFR0916

Anne Mette Iversen

Ternion Quartet

Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records BJUR 062

Something In The Air: An Added Ingredient for Integrated Improvisation

By Ken Waxman MORE

September 8, 2017


Krakow Nights
Not Two MW-937-2


The Long Road

Auricle Records AUR 16/17


A Wing Dissolved in Light

NoBusiness Records NBLP 105


This is Beautiful because we are Beautiful People

ESP-Disk ESP 5011

Something in the Air: New Excitement at the Guelph Jazz Festival

By Ken Waxman

After a couple of quiet years the annual Guelph Festival (GJF), September 13 to September 17, is newly energized and asserting its role as one of Canada’s most consistent showcases of adventurous music. Another reason for this year’s buzz is that besides the outstanding Canadian and American musicians consistently featured at the GJF, major European improvisers will be on hand as well. MORE

September 5, 2017

Météo Mulhouse Music Festival

August 22 to August 26, 2017

A consistent French tradition like chewy baguettes, fine Camembert or Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Mulhouse, France’s Météo Festival, now in its 35th year, continues to present exemplary musicians in concert, without the program ever becoming homogeneous. What this means is that while the festival which took place August 22-August 26, was introduced and reached a climax with absorbing and innovative with sets by veteran Imptov saxophonists Evan Parker and Peter Brötzmann, performances which encompassed minimalism, hard-core Free Jazz, electronics, Rock, notated and folkloric music were part of the schedule. MORE

May 8, 2017

Johannes Bauer/Peter Brötzmann

Blue City
Trost TR 155

By Ken Waxman

Of all post-war European trombonists, Johannes Bauer, who died a year ago this month at 62, was the first actually born into free jazz. Growing up in East Germany (GDR) where free music was tolerated more than elsewhere in the Soviet Bloc, except for military and dance gigs, his apprenticeship was in improvised music and continued when he became a Berlin-based professional at 25. Like a paralympian who develops techniques to convert a so-called handicap into championship strategies, Bauer’s non-traditional background and eastern upbringing didn’t stop him from forging links with free jazzers such as Peter Brötzmann, Fred Van Hove, his older (by 11 years) brother Konrad (initially a GDR pop singer) as well as younger experimenters. MORE

December 6, 2016


NotTwo MW939-2

By Ken Waxman

Borah Bergman, who would have turned 90 December 13, but who died in 2012, once said he viewed art as a “fight”. But the pugnacious pianist would have viewed this trio session as a cordial skirmish rather than an all-out battle. Certainly this encounter with German reedist Peter Brötzmann and Norwegian alto saxophonist Frode Gjerstad might ironically be defined as friendly fire. None of the participants hold back, yet the take-away is alliance not annihilation. MORE

August 16, 2016


Dead and Useless
Omlott Records MLR 003 LP



Trost TR 138

Now that he’s midway through his eighth decade and having recorded a catalogue of – at best estimates – 200 discs, the parameters of German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann’s adept dexterity is more discernible. Like the Hollywood actor typecast in tough guys roles until a scholarly examination of his work demonstrated his flexibility, the saxophonist’s persona has usually been viewed through a single lens as a blood vessel-bursting hard blower. That much is true, but just as actors like Billy Bob Thornton and Jeff Goldblum have shown they can excel in comedies as well as dramas, so too does Brötzmann have a more measured and almost whimsical way of performing. That aspect has become clearer during the past decade or so. But as these earlier recorded – but recently releases – discs confirm, the reedist was no more limited to fortissimo overblowing than Clint Eastwood was only able to portray to a laconic cowpoke. MORE

August 16, 2016


Trost TR 138


Dead and Useless BR>

Omlott Records MLR 003 LP

Now that he’s midway through his eighth decade and having recorded a catalogue of – at best estimates – 200 discs, the parameters of German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann’s adept dexterity is more discernible. Like the Hollywood actor typecast in tough guys roles until a scholarly examination of his work demonstrated his flexibility, the saxophonist’s persona has usually been viewed through a single lens as a blood vessel-bursting hard blower. That much is true, but just as actors like Billy Bob Thornton and Jeff Goldblum have shown they can excel in comedies as well as dramas, so too does Brötzmann have a more measured and almost whimsical way of performing. That aspect has become clearer during the past decade or so. But as these earlier recorded – but recently releases – discs confirm, the reedist was no more limited to fortissimo overblowing than Clint Eastwood was only able to portray to a laconic cowpoke. MORE

July 21, 2016

Peter Brötzmann

Münster Bern
Cubus Records CR371

Like a ferocious-looking English bull dog that in truth turns out to be amiable and cooperative, the harsh interface Peter Brötzmann displays in his performances masks a unique romanticism often expressed in sibilant asides and heart-wrenching discursions. This is never more apparent than in his solo playing, as these five Bern-recorded tracks demonstrate. Not only is there introspection and alliteration in his narratives, but enhanced sonic discursions often bring pure emotion to the surface. With overt references to Ornette Coleman – the CD’s final track, “The Very Heart of Things”, is a contrafact of “Lonely Woman” – and a disguised salute to Albert Ayler’s wacky reconstitution of “La Marseillaise” on the penultimate track, the Wuppertal-based saxophonist/clarinetist expressed his empathy with other heart-on-sleeve creators who similarly masked their emotionalism with harsh atonality. MORE

June 21, 2016

Mental Shake

Mental Shake
Otoroku 10

From the very first seconds of the single almost 39½-minute improvisation that makes up Mental Shake it’s obvious that this is an extraordinary session. Stretching the distinctive timbres of the tarogato as if they’re the bellows of an accordion, Peter Brötzmann conjures up the raw cry of a wolf, ferociously prowling the Hungarian countryside. Brötzmann, whose commitment to the most raucous variant of free jazz has been evident since his first recordings in 1965, is plainly invigorated by the venue – London’s Café Oto – and more so by his associates. MORE

April 12, 2016

Brötzmann/Van Hove Bennink

Corbett vs Dempsey CD 020

Willem Breuker Kollektief

Angoulême 18 Mail 1980

Fou Records FR-CD 9&10

Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden

Frictions/Frictions Now

NoBusiness Records NBCD 79

Anthony Braxton & Derek Bailey

First Duo Concert

Emanem 5038

Something In The Air: Preserving Rediscovered Free Music Classics

By Ken Waxman

Fully grasping the intricacies of musical history often depends on the availability of recorded documents. That’s why many musical histories are re-evaluated once hitherto little known performances become accessible. This is especially crucial when it comes to completely or mostly improvised sounds. Reissued and/or rediscovered sessions, which preserve ephemeral moments, confirm the music’s wide dissemination. More importantly they add the equivalent of additional sentences that provide a fuller understanding of the free music story. MORE

March 7, 2016

Label Spotlight

Corbett vs. Dempsey
By Ken Waxman

As commerce continues to be divided between mass and class, the music business has followed suit. On one side are the remaining major record companies turning out “product” as cheaply and quickly as they can, and on the other so-called boutique labels whose releases are selected and manufactured with the utmost care. One of the quirkiest of the latter is Corbett vs. Dempsey (CvD), a decade-old Chicago-based imprint that along with a publishing outlet is a division of an art gallery co-owned by John Corbett and Jim Dempsey. CvD has so far put out 25 discs, ranging from reissues of major LPs by Joe McPhee and Peter Brötzmann to obscurities by the likes of George Davis and Staffan Harde to brand-new CDs by Thurston Moore and Mats Gustaffsson. MORE

December 11, 2015

Festival Report

Krakow Jazz Autumn
By Ken Waxman

Krakow’s Kazimierz district, which includes Poland’s oldest standing synagogue building, and architecture dating mostly from the 18th century, was early on a centre of intellectual ferment, and more recently known for its large concentration of bars and restaurants. But it’s likely that rarely has the area witnessed such an open display of power and emotion as took place during German reedist Peter Brötzmann’s four-day residency November 5 to 8 at the basement Alchemia Club during Krakow Jazz Autumn. MORE

October 11, 2015

Alexander von Schlippenbach

Globe Unity
MPS DL (EAN/UPC 4250644881299)

Listening to this crucial session from nearly a half-century ago from the vantage point of 2015, suggests just how timeless some Free Jazz remains. Conversely it reminds us how much of its time programs like this one are. Globe Unity – the performance and LP which birthed a long-running European Free Music aggregation – appeared historically in between two Jazz milestones, John Coltrane’s Ascension in 1965 and Peter Brötzmann’s Machine Gun in 1968. Unlike the octet featured on the latter or the 11 players on Ascension, Globe Unity consists of 14 musicians, a small big band with strings, brass, reeds and percussion represented. MORE

June 26, 2015


Soulfood Available
Clean Feed CF 316 CD

At this point in history listening to Peter Brötzmann improvise alongside two musicians a couple of decades younger than himself – a familiar activity for the past 20-odd years – is in a way analogous to hearing those 1940s sessions Sidney Bechet recorded with Bob Wilbur and Dick Wellstood. Here is a progenitor of a certain style, in the company of his acolytes who he accepts as equals since they have become conversant enough with the genre to bring their own idiosyncrasies and skills to the form. Crucially, besides not being a guru-and-disciples situation, like some other Bechet, Bunk Johnson and other instances there’s also no hint that the front man’s contributions are any less vigorous than the others’. MORE

April 7, 2015

Label Spotlight

By Ken Waxman

Vienna’s punk-noise scene of the’90s with underground clubs, fanzines and tape labels did more than advance the career of avant-rock bands. Trost Records was nurtured in that DIY atmosphere so that nearly a quarter-century later it has become a major presence in jazz, releasing discs by the likes of Mats Gustafsson, Peter Brötzmann and Ken Vandermark. This happened because a university student/journalist, working part time at one club, plus a couple of friends, felt the city’s musicians needed more exposure. “There were so many great young bands but basically only two labels in Vienna put out punk hardcore or gothic/rock. No one released weird things, noise, mixed genres,” recalls Konstantin Drobil, Trost’s owner. “But I wanted to put out music that touched me in a certain way, no matter what genre.” MORE

April 7, 2015

Festival Report

Artacts ‘15
By Ken Waxman

Situated in the midst of Austria’s Tyrolean Alps where chair lifts are a 20 minute walk from the central square, every second store sells ski equipment and alpine-outfitted fanatics crowd the streets, the resort of St. Johann in Tirol welcomed an equally committed but different type of fanatic March 6-8. Celebrating its 15th anniversary the annual Artacts Festival presents improvised music at the Alte Gerberei cultural centre and elsewhere. Evening performances ranged from the focused minimalism of the opening Gutvik/Kjær/Strøm trio to drummer Paal Nilssen-Love’s 11-piece Large Unit that closed the festival with confrontational brawn. MORE

August 6, 2014

Peter Brötzmann

We thought we could change the world: Conversations with Gérard Rouy
Wolke Verlag Hofheim

We thought we could change the world is one of the few instances where a book created from the information originally gathered for inclusion in a film is as compelling as the movie itself. The production in question is “Soldier of the Road”, French director Bernard Josse’s acclaimed 2011 independently produced documentary about 72-year-old German saxophonist and Free Jazz avatar Peter Brötzmann. Besides performances and interviews with other Free Jazz figures, the core of the feature came from four extended interviews Brötzmann did with French journalist/photographer Gérard Rouy, who has been following the saxophonist’s career since the early 1970s. MORE

September 9, 2013


Concert for Fukushima Wels 2011
Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet (PanRec/Trost Records)

By Ken Waxman
Passion is an adjective often associated with German sax avatar Peter Brötzmann, especially as on this DVD, you can see as well as hear the efforts that go into producing his gut-busting sounds. Concert for Fukushima Wels 2011 is a valuable addition to the saxophonist’s cannon for not only focusing on the passion behind his playing and that of the other musicians featured in this 75-minute live concert from an Austrian festival. The DVD also highlights Brötzmann’s compassion as well. Always politically engaged the Wuppertal-based reedist asked four Japanese innovators to play with the Chicago Tentet that night with all proceeds from the gigs going to two organizations aiding the victims of the then recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami. MORE

April 6, 2013

Lest We Forget

Borah Bergman (1926 or 1933-2012)
By Ken Waxman

For someone who didn’t even record until he was in his forties, Borah Bergman’s prodigious talent soon marked him as one of jazz’s most skillful experimental pianist, a reputation he maintained until his death on October 18 last year.

An enigmatic figure, Brooklyn-born Bergman was either 79 or 86 when he died. He claimed he shaved seven years off his age in the biography for his first record date in 1975. That relatively mainstream disc on Chiaroscuro only hinted at his powers, which came to the fore during the subsequent decades in solo performances and as he partnered many of free jazz’s heavy hitters both in Europe and North America. MORE

February 12, 2013

Peter Brötzmann

Solo +Trio Roma
Victo cd 122/123



NotTwo MW 894-2


Café Oto/London

Trost TR 108



Clean Feed 252CD

Something In The Air: Peter Brötzmann’s Triumphant Seventh Decade

By Ken Waxman

Although the witticism that “free jazz keeps you young” has been repeated so often that’s it’s taken on cliché status, there’s enough evidence to give the statement veracity. Many improvisers in their eighties and seventies are still playing with the fire of performers in their twenties. Take German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, who celebrated his 70th birthday and nearly 50 years of recording a couple of years ago. Case in point is Solo +Trio Roma Victo cd 122/123, recorded at 2011’s Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville (FIMAV) in Quebec. Not only does Brötzmann play with unabated intensity for almost 75 minutes, while fronting a bassist and a drummer about half his age on one CD; but on the other inventively plays unaccompanied, without a break, for another hour or so. The multi-reedist still blows with the same caterwauling intensity that characterized Machine Gun, 1968’s Free Jazz classic, plus a balladic sensitivity now spells his go-for-broke expositions. Solo, his overview is relentlessly linear mixing extended staccato cadenzas with passages of sweet romance that momentarily slow the narrative. Climatically the nearly 25-minute Frames of Motion is a pitch-sliding explosion of irregular textures and harsh glissandi that seems thick as stone, yet is malleable enough to squeeze the slightest nuance out of every tune. Slyly, Brötzmann concludes the piece with gargling split tones that gradually amalgamate into I Surrender Dear. Backed by Norwegian percussion Paal Nilssen-Love and Italian electric bassist Massimo Pupillo, Brötzmann adds lip-curling intensity and multiphonic glissandi to the other program. Centrepiece is Music Marries Room to Room that continues for more than 69½ minutes. Besides wounded bull-like cries tempered with spitting glissandi from the saxophonist, the piece includes jet-engine-like drones from the Pupillo as well as shattering ruffs and pounding shuffles from the drummer. Several times, just as it seems the playing can’t get any more ardent, it kicks up another notch. Indefatigable, the saxophonist spins out staccato screams and emphasized renal snorts in equal measures, with his stentorian output encompassing tongue slaps, tongue stops and flutter tonguing. Brief solos showcase Pupillo crunching shards of electronic friction with buzz-saw intensity, while Nilssen-Love exposes drags, paradiddles, rebounds, and smacks, without slowing the beat. There are even lyrical interludes among the overblowing as Brötzmann occasionally brings the proceedings to a halt for a capella sequences, which suggest everything from Taps to Better Git It in your Soul. Finally the broken-octave narrative reaches a point of no-return to wrap up in a circular fashion with yelping reed cries, blunt percussion smacks and dense electronic buzzes. Rapturous applause from the audience spurs the three to go at it again at the same elevated concentration for an additional five minutes. MORE

October 7, 2012

Lest We Forget

Willem Breuker (1944-2010)
By Ken Waxman

The blend of anarchism, precision and humor suggested by Willem Breuker Kollektief (WBK), the name of the ensemble the Dutch saxophonist/composer led for 36 years until his death from lung cancer on July 23, 2010, underlined the fascinating contradictions in his music. A collective has everyone on equal footing no matter how skilled, yet this Kollektief had Breuker as the undisputed boss of a group of first-class soloists. Furthermore the sly joke in this wordplay was also reflected in the WBK’s on-stage horseplay. Breuker not only ensured that the unmistakable modern jazz played included themes by notated composers such as Kurt Weill and George Gershwin, but also a large helping of physical and instrumental comedy that might culminate in the vocalizing of a ’20 ditty like “Yes We Have No Bananas”. MORE

July 6, 2012

Peter Brötzmann & Jörg Fischer

Live in Wiesbaden
NotTwo MW 877-2

Theo Jörgensmann/Albrecht Mauer


Nemu Records 011

Georg Ruby/Michel Pilz

Deuxième Bureau

JazzHaus JHM 205

Globe Unity: Germany

By Ken Waxman

Much of the excitement in early European free jazz came from Germany as local reedists with a long marching band tradition blew with volume and intensity. Tenor saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, 70, bass clarinetist Michel Pilz, 64, and G-low clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann, 63 were part of that excitement. Recent duo sessions with partners using progressively more brawny textures show how each has evolved. MORE

May 31, 2012

Full Blast & Friends

Sketches and Ballads
Trost TR 107

Peter Brötzmann & Jörg Fischer

Live in Wiesbaden

NotTwo MW 877-2

Now that he’s into his eighth decade, German reedist Peter Brötzmann, who plays alto and tenor saxophone, clarinet and tárogató here, is becoming like Ol’ Man River – he just keeps rolling along. This accomplishment would seem less noteworthy if the Wuppertal-based player wasn’t on the road in a variety of formations as often and for as lengthy a time as musicians one-third his age; if he didn’t still play with the same nephritic intonation as he did on his first recording session in 1965; and if his soloing wasn’t still rife with the same intelligent intensity he has demonstrated often during his long career. MORE

May 31, 2012

Peter Brötzmann & Jörg Fischer

Live in Wiesbaden
NotTwo MW 877-2

Full Blast & Friends

Sketches and Ballads

Trost TR 107

Now that he’s into his eighth decade, German reedist Peter Brötzmann, who plays alto and tenor saxophone, clarinet and tárogató here, is becoming like Ol’ Man River – he just keeps rolling along. This accomplishment would seem less noteworthy if the Wuppertal-based player wasn’t on the road in a variety of formations as often and for as lengthy a time as musicians one-third his age; if he didn’t still play with the same nephritic intonation as he did on his first recording session in 1965; and if his soloing wasn’t still rife with the same intelligent intensity he has demonstrated often during his long career. MORE

April 8, 2011

FMP In Rückblick

In Retrospect 1969-2010
FMP CD 137 - FMP CD 148

Something in the Air: FMP`s 40th Anniversary

By Ken Waxman

Throughout jazz history, independent labels have typified sounds of the time. In the Swing era it was Commodore; Modern jazz was prominent on Blue Note and Prestige; and with Improvised Music, FMP is one of the longest lasting imprints. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Berlin-based label has given listeners a spectacular birthday present with FMP In Rückblick – In Retrospect 1969-2010,12 [!] CDs representing FMP’s past and future – the oldest from 1975, the newest, by American cellist Tristan Honsinger and German guitarist Olaf Rupp from 2010, half previously unissued – plus an LP-sized, 218-page book, lavishly illustrated with contemporary photographs, posters, album covers and a discography. MORE

December 9, 2010

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet +1

3 Nights in Oslo
Smalltown Superjazz STSJ197CD

Anthony Braxton/Gerry Hemingway

Old Dogs (2007)

Mode Avant 9/12

Sun Ra

The Heliocentric Worlds

ESP-Disk 4062

Rivière Composers’ Pool

Summer Works 2009

Emanem 5301

Something in the Air

By Ken Waxman

Boxed sets of recorded music have long been a holiday gift. But sophisticated music fans won’t settle for slapped together “best of” collections. Boxes such as these, collecting multiple CDs for specific reasons, should impress any aware listener. MORE

November 29, 2010


Kilogram Records 1kg 017

Building this triangular meeting around ornithologically titled tracks, the horn players on this CD prove that first-class improvisation can result from any combination of instruments. The two Germans and one Pole also confirm that extended techniques used judiciously as well as with bellicose intent can make fowl sounds as palatable as any others.

Two of the aviary adventures – Wuppertal saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and Berlin trombonist Johannes Bauer –have been in the forefront of Free Music for years, working with pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, violinist Jon Rose and bassist Barry Guy among many, many others. Gdańsk resident Mikołaj Trzaska is not as well-known, but shouldn’t remain so. Over the past 15 years he has widened his circle of playing partners from fellow Poles such as bassist Marcin Oleś and drummer Bartłomiej Oleś to Danish drummer Peter Øle Jorgensen, Belgian bassist Peter Jacquemyn and Americans multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee MORE

August 12, 2010


The Damage Is Done: The Whole Session
Not Two MW 823-2

Mellow is not the first word you associate with German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann. And on the evidence of this live, fire-breathing two-CD set, the sedate blandness that many associate with getting older don’t seems to affected Brötzmann as he hones in on his 70th birthday.

Listening to the energy and inventiveness displayed by the players on this six-track set recorded in a Krakow, the Steve Lacy adage that “Free Jazz keeps you young” is proven one again. Besides the Wuppertal-based saxophonist, who expresses himself fortissimo and often staccatissimo on alto and tenor saxophone, tarogato and Bb clarinet, are the mercurial styling of Upstate New York’s Joe McPhee, who divides his talents between pocket trumpet and alto saxophone – and who is now also in his 70th year. Chicago’s bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Michael Zerang who are either side of the half-century mark almost struggle to keep up. Like one of John Coltrane’s marathon live recordings, these two sets from the Alchemia club capture every note played on that night. Courtesy of Brötzmann, the output is scarcely minimalist. Yet the commitment and skills of the four are as evident as the final notes fade as they are in the first notes of the mammoth – 30½-minute – first and title track. MORE

July 28, 2010

Zlatko Kaučič

Koncerti ob 30-letnici/30th Anniversary Concerts
Splasc (H) Records CDH 2525.2/CDH 2526.2/CDH 2527.2

For slightly less than two decades, percussionist Zlatko Kaučič has made his home back in his native Slovenia and in the process intensified the connections of the country’s somewhat isolated improvised musicians with their peers from other parts of the world.

Because his musical odyssey during the preceding 15 years took him to Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and the Netherlands, Kaučič now has the status of both a musical ambassador for his country as well as someone connecting Slovenia’s traditional and modern sounds with contemporary music. This three-CD set, commemorating his 30 years as a professional was recorded at three different local festivals. It’s instructive as well as inventive, for each CD finds Kaučič playing with different partners. MORE

July 3, 2010

Densités Festival

Fresnes-en-Woëvre, France
October 23 to 25 2009

A rural French hamlet in the Lorraine countryside isn’t the setting you imagine for a world-class festival of unadulterated Electronic and Free Music. Yet the Densités Festival in Fresnes-en-Woëvre – population 500 – about 80 kilometres from Nancy, is that. During three days in late October, the 16th Edition presented a sonic banquet of unstoppable Free Jazz, minimalist improv, sound installations, electro-acoustic meetings, poetry recitations and interactions between instrumentalists and dancers. MORE

April 19, 2010

Berg-Und Talfahrt

A Night in Sana’a
Arm 02

Nicholas Christian/Matt Milton/Eddie Prévost/Bechir Saade

A Church is Only Sacred to Believers

Al Maslakh: MSLKH 10

When it comes to sound production, musicians from what are generally thought of as Arab countries are no more monolithic in its creation then those from the west –especially if free improvisation is involved. Which is why these two discs are so fascinating, different and memorable. Even though both involve musicians of Arab background and are in the main concerned with free music, neither is like the other in any way shape or form. MORE

August 30, 2009


Hairy Bones
Okka Disk OD 12076

More than 40 years after Machine Gun, 1968’s seminal Free Jazz explosion on LP, and about 45 since he became a full-time improvising musician, the warp and woof is still present in saxophonist Peter Brötzmann’s playing.

Without resorting to hyperbole, one could make the argument that at 68, the Wuppertal-based reedist’s ideas and execution are as first-rate as they ever were. On two long tracks here, recorded at Amsterdam’s Bimhuis, Brötzmann directs an international combo that matches his invention and vigor, as well as being the musical equivalent of many of the saxophonist’s quartets of the past. MORE

April 8, 2009

Tony Malaby Cello Trio

Songlines SGL SA1574-2

Peter Brötzmann/Fred Lonberg-Holm

The Brain of the Dog in Section

Atavistic ALP 186 CD

Hardest working man in cello business, Chicago-based Fred Lonberg-Holm is the point of intersection for these sessions. More to the point, even though both feature his strings and electronics plus the talents of an unfettered saxophonist – as well as percussionist John Hollenbeck on Warblepeck – the results couldn’t be more different.

Partnered alongside Lonberg-Holm on The Brain of the Dog in Section is veteran Peter Brötzmann playing alto and tenor saxophones, Bb clarinet and torogato in his usual take-no-prisoners style. Lasting fewer than 38 minutes both men demonstrate how stark, unfettered, harsh improvisation reveal the essence of improvisation. MORE

April 8, 2009

Peter Brötzmann/Fred Lonberg-Holm

The Brain of the Dog in Section
Atavistic ALP 186 CD

Tony Malaby Cello Trio


Songlines SGL SA1574-2

Hardest working man in cello business, Chicago-based Fred Lonberg-Holm is the point of intersection for these sessions. More to the point, even though both feature his strings and electronics plus the talents of an unfettered saxophonist – as well as percussionist John Hollenbeck on Warblepeck – the results couldn’t be more different.

Partnered alongside Lonberg-Holm on The Brain of the Dog in Section is veteran Peter Brötzmann playing alto and tenor saxophones, Bb clarinet and torogato in his usual take-no-prisoners style. Lasting fewer than 38 minutes both men demonstrate how stark, unfettered, harsh improvisation reveal the essence of improvisation. MORE

November 14, 2006

Peter Brötzmann

Atavistic ALP257CD

Pica Pica
Atavistic ALP258CD

Two more valuable CD reissues of Wuppertal, Germany-based saxophonist Peter Brötzmann’s work for FMP in the 1980s once again show his versatility. One disk offers proof positive that the hard-driving reedist can easily hold up his side in an all-star trio configuration, while the other shows how he helps spark aural fireworks in a nonet situation.

Ironically the aptly-named Alarm almost ended up being more than a fanciful “blast from the past”. This Hamburg radio gig with a multi-national cast of nine Free Jazzers had to be interrupted after the 40 odd minutes captured on the disc were recorded because a phoned-in bomb threat meant that the audience, technicians and musicians had to quickly evacuate the hall. MORE

January 2, 2006


Be Music, Night
OkkaDisk OD 12059

This CD may ruin saxophonist Peter Brötzmann’s long-held reputation as the ferocious, hard-hearted wild man of Free Jazz.

For the entire hour-plus CD by the German reedman’s mostly Chicago-based band is designed as homage to American poet Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972). Additionally, the longest – more than 42 minutes – of the three tracks features mellifluous-voiced Welsh poet Mike Pearson integrated into the ensemble reading selections from Patchen’s work that are, for all intents and purposes, love poems. MORE

September 7, 2005

Multiphonics in the Middle East

Taking stock of Lebanon’s Improv scene
From CODA Issue 323

By Ken Waxman

“I was born the same year of the Lebanese war, and I lived in it until its end and in fact I’m more and more convinced that there’s a close relation between it and my kind of playing today,” explains Beirut-based trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj, 30. “A lot of my passion for this music [Free Jazz] comes from my childhood, it reminds me unconsciously of the soundscapes of bombs and rifles that filled my ears during my childhood.”

War and bombs aside, the CD that so affected Kerbaj and his friends and introduced them to Free Jazz, was Peter Brötzmann’s Machine Gun, complete with its war-like cover. This initiation soon led to he and other like-minded players amassing as many Free Improv CDs as they could by the likes of Evan Parker and Charlie Haden. MORE

July 25, 2005

Northern Sun, Southern Moon, Europe’s Reinvention of Jazz

By Mike Heffley
Yale University Press

By Ken Waxman
July 23, 2005

Gifted with an imaginative thesis – the migration of innovative free music from the African-American community of the United States and its adoption and mutation by Europeans – Mike Heffley’s book encompasses interviews, analysis, musicology and philosophical concepts. Unfortunately, the academic emphasis makes some of it a hard slog for the lay reader. Often non-linear, as benefits a book on Free Jazz, the narrative is so discursive at points that it resembles those John Coltrane solos where the variations so outdistanced the theme as to almost make the head an afterthought. MORE

March 28, 2005


The Bishop’s Move
VICTO cd 093

A extraordinary face off between veteran improv titans or as they prefer to say at the Victoriaville festival, un première mondiale, this meeting combines British saxophonist Evan Parker’s touring group with German reedist Peter Brötzmann’s Northern American band. More of a rapprochement than a battle royal, the 73½-minute session, recorded live at Quebec’s Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville in 2003 categorically accentuates the similarities rather than the differences between the two improv power trios. MORE

February 28, 2005


Last Set: Live at the 1369 Jazz Club
Boxholder BXH 042

Berlin Djungle
Atavistic Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 246CD

Getting an understanding of the situation for committed free improvisers in Europe as opposed to the United States in the mid-1980s is pretty obvious when listening to these two live CDs, recorded about two months apart, both of which happen to have William Parker in the bass chair.

In early November 1984, German reedist Peter Brötzmann put together an international, all-star, 11-piece “Clarinet Project” for a special concert in a Berlin theatre as part of that city’s Jazzfest. Beside himself the clarinetists were Tony Coe from England, Louis Sclavis from France, East German Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky and J. D. Parran and John Zorn from the U.S. But that’s not all. The ensemble also included Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, East German Johannes Bauer and Briton Alan Tomlinson on trombones, with British drummer Tony Oxley supplying the bottom along with Parker. By all accounts the one lengthy piece was welcomed by the audience. MORE

January 10, 2005


Live at the Spruce Street Forum
Botticelli 1015

Marco Eneidi is a brave musician.

When it comes to improvising, the diminutive, Bay area alto saxophonist will match his skills against anyone’s. Which is why LIVE AT THE SPRUCE STREET FORUM is such an explosive document. The five longish tracks feature Eneidi facing off with a reedman universally acknowledged since the 1960s as one of the most ferocious on his instruments: German saxist and clarinetist Peter Brötzmann.

Aided and abetted by Vancouver-born, California-based bassist Lisle Ellis and New York drummer Jackson Krall and recorded in San Diego, the CD is a caterwauling yawp of a session. It proves how in the right circumstances it only takes four committed improvisers to make enough characteristic sounds to create their own version of John Coltrane’s ASCENSION, which featured 11 musicians or Brötzmann’s MACHINE GUN which featured eight. MORE

December 6, 2004


Okkadisk OD 12048

Okkadisk OD 12047

More than five years after it was first organized, German reedist Peter Brötzmann’s mostly Chicago-populated Tentet has become a welcomed presence on the international improv scene.

In the tradition of the Globe Unity Orchestra -- of which Brötzmann was also a member -- the reed-heavy band plays long, involved compositions more concerned with spur of the moment interpretation than elaborate arrangements. Yet, as this matched set of live and studio material demonstrates, the 10-piece band actually sounds best when organized patterns and section work are added to the massed firepower. MORE

November 22, 2004


Avenue X
Ninth World Music NWM 029 CD

The Darkest River
Ninth World Music NWM 027 CD

Difficult to imagine, but there are times during AVENUE X when the consolidated sounds of the Capote quartet are so harsh and brutal that in comparison the Wild Mans Band (WMB)’s output appears as restrained and serene as that of the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Not meant as a criticism, this state of affairs merely points out how effectively the vocabulary of pioneering fire-breathers like WMB’s reedman Peter Brötzmann and guest guitarist Pierre Dørge has permeated the fabric of modern improv. From the 1960s on, in the German saxophonist’s case and from the 1970s for the Danish guitarist, they and others proved that noise, speed and volume could just as easily be adapted to jazz as rock music. MORE

June 21, 2004


The Psyche
Mutable Music 17514-2

FMP 130
Atavistic Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP244CD

Reissues of two hard-to-find LPs from the mid-1970s point out the differences that had developed between European and American improvisers even at that early date. While both approaches are equally valid, it’s ironic to consider that at this point the Europeans were catapulting harsh, screaming textures reminiscent of the New Thing’s beginning, while it’s the Americans who were more concerned with form and structure in their compositions. Almost 30 years later, the situation is almost completely reversed, though the participants here are mostly committed to their original vision. MORE

December 1, 2003


ECM 1827

Globe Unity 2002
Intakt CD 086

One potential horror comedians are always joking about is a world where the transportation schedules would be set by the Italians and the restaurants run by the British and Germans.

As humorous as this may sound as a situation, these CDs by mid-sized (eight- and nine-piece) bands shows that remarkable sounds can still result if countrymen act antithetically to their clichéd national characteristics. MORE

October 13, 2003


The Cooler Suite
GROB 539

Serendipitous accomplishment, this live quartet disc is one of those unplanned sessions that ends up being released when it’s discovered that the night’s work was better than anyone imagined.

Flushed with the go-for-broke excitement that characterizes the best Free Jazz, the CD is a cleaned up version of what was recorded over an a cheap ferro cassette of demos that German saxophonist Thomas Borgmann shoved into the mixing board one night in 1997. A DAT recorder wasn’t working. MORE

October 6, 2003


More Nipples
Atavistic Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP236CD

Prime cuts of Peter Brötzmann and company at his most ferocious, the 40 minutes of music on this CD were literally forgotten until 2002 when FMP founder Jost Gebers discovered this cache of unreleased tapes in his archives.

Living up to the series title, the three tracks were recorded at the same 1969 session that produced NIPPLES (Atavistic/Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 205 CD), one of the German saxophonist’s most distinctive early sessions, that itself was out-of-print for years until reissued in 2000. Unlike that disc, British saxophonist Evan Parker and guitarist Derek Bailey are only featured on the title track. The other two highlight the reedist’s quartet of the time, completed by Flemish pianist Fred Van Hove, the late German bassist Buschi Niebergall and Holland’s Han Bennink on drums and percussion. MORE

July 7, 2003


Never Too Late But Always Too Early
Eremite MTE 037/038

Sharp Knives Cut Deeper
Splasc (h) CDH 850

More than 35 years after he roared onto the international Free Jazz scene, German reedist Peter Brötzmann’s playing still seems as ferocious as ever. This is a good thing. For unlike some of his contemporaries who have settled into a sort of middle-aged timidness, the tenor saxophonist still improvises with the same intensity and commitment at 60 as he did when he was 25. MORE

March 3, 2003


Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 233CD


Complete Vogel Recordings Collection

Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 229 CD

All good things must come to an end. Thus it was no surprise that in 1976 the pan-European trio of German saxophonist Peter Bötzmann, Belgian pianist Fred Van Hove and Dutch drummer Han Bennink (BVB) dissolved their partnership after nine years.

Although the band was highly influential during its lifetime, with discs like BALLS, listening to it in tandem with Van Hove’s solo and duo discs from the same period you can hear why things had to come to an end. The trio was renowned for its pure power, most obviously expressed in the saxophonist’s overblowing and the drummer’s manhandling of a giant kit. The pianist often seems like the odd man out and the reason he gives for BVB’s demise was that any attempts at intricate playing on his part was drowned out by Bennink’s battery of percussion. MORE

December 16, 2002


European Echoes
Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 232CD

The Living Music
Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 231CD

Multi-reedman Peter Brötzmann always insists that when pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and trumpeter Manfred Schoof first heard his pioneering free jazz band in the mid-1960s “they just laughed their asses off. At that time they played the Horace Silver-style thing”. But, by the end of the decade as Brötzmann widened his circle to include other experimenters like Dutch drummer Han Bennink and worked with American jazzers like trumpeter Don Cherry and soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, his fellow Germans began to come around as well. MORE

September 23, 2002


For Adolphe Sax
Atavistic Unheard Music Series ALP 230

Americans might have been in the middle of the psychedelics-fueled Summer of Love in June 1967, but things were a little more complicated in Europe. Especially in the northern part of the continent, politically committed revolutionaries were a lot easier to find than hippies. Educational, generational and societal unrest was rife, protests against racism, colonialism and the Viet Nam war were routine, and the situation existed that would culminate in demonstrations in 1968. European radicals were more likely to be wearing red armbands than flowers in their hair. MORE

June 7, 2002


Short Visit To Nowhere
Okka Disk OD 12043

Broken English
Okka Disk OD 12044

Three years after it was first organized and a year after it first toured, Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet (Plus Two in this case) displays, in these 2000 recordings, that it has become an exemplary example of how to adopt free improv to large aggregations.

With a mixed cast of seven Chicagoans, three members from New York state, a Swede and Brötzmann, a German, it has all the firepower of a traditional big band with its eight horns. Plus, the three-man string section and two percussionists ensure that not only is its bottom covered -- so to speak -- but that the strings can alternately meld with the horns or shore up the rhythm section. Also, while the German reedman wrote two of the compositions, he’s democratic enough to make room for one piece each by Chicago multi-woodwind player Ken Vandermark, Swedish reedist Mats Gustafsson and Chicago cellist/violinist Fred Lonberg-Holm. MORE

March 29, 2002


Aoyama Crows
FMP CD 118

Bearing in mind that these four busy musicians have been playing together irregularly for a little less than a decade, they’ve coalesced into one of reedist Peter Brötzmann’s most accomplished units. That’s some achievement for a part time combo, considering that past Brötz bands have included some genre definers as saxophonists Frank Wright and Evan Parker, trombonist Paul Rutherford, bassist Peter Kowald and drummers Han Bennink and Louis Moholo.

Singly or together, rhythm section alchemists --- bassist William Parker, linchpin of a dozen bands in New York’s Lower East Side, and drummer Hamid Drake, Chicago’s most in-demand percussionist -- can apparently move any playing situation onto the gold standard. But the wild card here is Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, whose electronic treatments add an unusual found sound texture not found in the saxophonist’s other projects, not to mention being the first trumpeter with whom the saxophonist has had a long term relationship. MORE

December 3, 2001


Globe Unity ’67 & ‘70
Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 223 CD

Souvenirs of a time when “globe unity” meant more than the convergence of commercial or military interests, this CD of never-before-released tracks feature a small army of Euro improvisers luxuriating in the freedom promulgated by John Coltrane’s ASCENSION and The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra.

Formed in late 1966, following a Berlin Jazz Festival commission for founder/pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, the Globe Unity Orchestra (GUO) evolved over the years from this wild-and-wooly Energy ensemble to one that joined other European large groups in a concern for compositions. Besides, many might find that these two pieces, initially taped for German radio, more exciting than what came from the band afterwards. MORE

May 31, 2001


Fuck De Boere
Atavistic/Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 211 CD

Unlawful Noise
Atavistic/Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 219 CD

It's time to rewrite the jazz history books yet again with the appearance of these archival-style CDs.

The first reveals that Peter Brötzmann's famous octet version of "Machine Gun" in 1968 wasn't its first performance. This CD includes a nonet run through of the piece recorded live at a jazz festival by German radio, two months earlier. The second disc shows that 1960s-style Energy Music, which in 1976 was deemed as passé and unfashionable as bell bottoms and headbands in North America, was still going strong in Europe. MORE

April 24, 2001


Live at Nefertiti
Ayler aylCD-004

How many Peters does it take to make a matchless improvised music session? Well, if this CD is any indication, the correct answer is three, as long as one spells his first name as Peeter.

Approaching 60, German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann's playing remains as boisterous as ever, and his commitment to uncompromising to free jazz is as strong as it was when he waxed the legendary MACHINE GUN in 1968. No mellowed senior statesman, his stentorian tone still extends to the skies, and he's as likely to limit his solos to a couple of minutes as he is to start quaffing mineral water instead of the harder stuff.


June 17, 2000


Okka Disk OD 12032

Peter Brötzmann is no stranger to bombast.

The German multi-reedist first goose-stepped his way into world jazz consciousness in 1968 with MACHINE GUN on FMP. From its first extended blats of pure noise emanating from a (very) mixed platoon of Dutch, Flemish, British and German improvisers, it gave lusty notice that Continental jazzers had to be judged on their own merits rather than in comparison to North American musicians.

Over the years, except for the odd one/off project, economic necessity has forced Brötzmann to work with smaller bands -- usually trios and quartets and some commentators have even posited that the wildman has mellowed.


June 17, 2000


Atavistic/Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 205 CD

One of the great, lost Euroimprov records, NIPPLES could rightly be described as a supersession. Recorded in 1969, less than a year after German saxophonist Brötzmann's seminal call to free jazz arms, MACHINE GUN, it has been out of print for almost the same amount of time. Not only does the title track feature five of the MACHINE GUNners, but it adds guitarist Bailey, who with saxophonist Parker would very soon turn away from this extroverted style to concentrate on the distinctive British "scratch and pick" style.