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.

Brötzmann’s constant timbral barrage, omnipresent as early as the first track, “Bushels and Bundles”, often takes the form of whiney dissonance. At the same time his reed command is such that he exposes every rubato variation and striation of his tone. At points, in fact, he appears to be playing two separate lines at once, setting up call-and-response as if he has become two hikers yodeling to one another from opposite mountain peaks. With reed expressions ranging from tip-top altissimo to colored sheets of sound and reverse R&B-style honks with Klezmer inferences, he ascends to the peak of expression mid-way through this live concert.

Like pop-soul singer such as Wilson Pickett and James Brown who were able to get several striations of tone from a single scream, Brötzmann does the same on “Move and Separate”; from what would be un-segmented banshee screams from others. This tune also includes catch-in-your-throat sentimentality where snarling basso tones alchemize into mellow, oboe-like buzzes before exiting as strangled wails that are played using the mouthpiece alone. Brötzmann’s clearest link to Ayler comes on the lung-emptying blast which introduces “Chaos of Human Affairs”. As he continues to break down the theme with nephritic squalls and knotty bottom-sourced melisma, he could be replicating the blowing session Ayler recorded with baritone saxophonist Charles Tyler. Like a dainty ribbon tied on a sharpened hatchet, the tune’s gentle coda is as wistful as anything played by trumpeter Don Ayler.

“We Ain’t Got No Band” was an album title and boast by a capella group The Persuasions. Although he usually works with other players, Münster Bern confirms that veteran saxophonist Brötzmann can carry a recital by himself.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Bushels and Bundles 2. Crack in the Sidewalks 3. Move and Separate 4. Chaos of Human Affairs 5. The Very Heart of Things

Personnel: Peter Brötzmann (tenor saxophone and tagato)