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.

As conspicuous as well is how readily the other players rise to his musical challenge as if all are part of a wolf pack with each vying to be the paramount alpha male. Bassist John Edwards’ husky string pops and sprawling bow sweeps color the proceedings and keep them grounded, while drummer Steve Noble’s wallops may be weighty, but never draw attention to themselves. Having one of Britain’s most accomplished rhythm teams on side is obviously a plus for the saxophonist, but the musical mammal who makes the most difference here is Chicago vibist Jason Adasiewicz. As savage as Brötzmann in his approach to his instrument, Adasiewicz pummels it with the abject physicality of Lionel Hampton in his “Flying Home” heyday, but uses motor-driven sustain to also maintain subtleties

At the same time no matter how many guillotine-like clouts the vibist chops during his solos, or how frequently Brötzmann outputs animalistic like smears or piles up reams of multiphonics with his horns – he also plays tenor and alto saxophones plus clarinet here –ecstatic moments are tempered by the concluding indolent sequences that are as cadenced as they are euphoric. Edwards’ poised string-scraping and Noble’s back beat maintain the metical pulse even as the saxophonist repeated reed chomps and Adasiewicz’s multi-mallet hacking discover unique forms of nourishment from the improvisational marrow which is the performance.

Physical properties may have been paramount when organizing this improvisation, but by the CD’s conclusion the analytical effervescence that goes into creating a high-quality session is obvious as well.

—Ken Waxman

Tracks: 1. Mental Shake

Personnel: Peter Brötzmann (alto and tenor saxophones, Bb clarinet, tarogato); Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone); John Edwards (bass) and Steve Noble (drums)