Peter Brötzmann/Fred Lonberg-Holm

December 16, 2020

Memories of a Tunicate
Relative Pitch RPR 1104

Harri Sjöstrom/Guilherme Rodrigues
The Treasures Are
Creative Sources CS 605 CD

Muscularity and delicacy or maybe thickness and thinness; those are some of the qualities that distinguishes these vivid essays in reed-cello improvisations from one another. In each case it’s the saxophonist who is the veteran, with the string player decades younger. But geography, age and even duration are set aside for energetic blending. One of the avatars of Free Jazz, German multi-reedist Peter Brötzmann has worked with numberless associates during in 50 plus year career. One is American cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, who has worked with Brötzmann’s in other contexts including his Tentet, and played with many other saxophonists. Fin Harri Sjöstrom, who plays sopranino and soprano saxophones here, has worked with everyone from Cecil Taylor to Alison Blunt. The much younger cellist Guilherme Rodrigues is Lisbon-born, but like Harri Sjöstrom a Berlin resident where he’s collaborated with musicians like Axel Dörner.

Until the more inevitable dampened finale, Memories of a Tunicate’s seven tracks are dedicated to augmented and jagged sonority. Brötzmann, who moves among tenor saxophone, Bb clarinet and tárogató here, has been expressing himself with nephritic and emphasized tones since his first gig. Still with his craggy swipes and stops augmented by electronics, Lonberg-Holm never shrinks from the challenge with most tracks dedicated to the two advancing the narratives in skewed double counterpoint. With processing the cellist also multiplies and alternates string textures, matching Brötzmann’s variety of reed intonations.

Their acerbic connection is expressed at its greatest length on “Aplousobranchia” where the initial upsurge is astutely divided between soaring string oscillations alongside the pressured snarling reed elevation. Just as Brötzmann’s double-and-triple tongued multiphonics take on more power and vibrations the shriller the pitch, so Lonberg-Holm’s sul ponticello string rubs become more pressurized and rugged as they work up the scale, Only at the climax does the cellist’s vibrating voltage dip and only then for a few pizzicato plucks. Otherwise the two range through every variety of tones, with Brötzmann using reed altissimo for a Reveille-like climax at a certain point or emphasizing the clarinet’s treble sweetness to cap a sequence that contrast his moderated tones with the cellist’s sprawling irregular whines. The tárogató’s woody tone is used both ways: as an adjunct to mellow rumbles from the cellist on “Pyrosomes”; or later on to add to the general cacophony where his multiphonic accents mingle with splinter pitches stretches from the cellist. Although the final “Stolidobranchia” ends the session with Lonberg-Holm’s string sweeps cushioning more moderated downward slurs from Brötzmann the hard reed screeches and split tones that precede this, suggest that energy from both is merely being controlled until the next outing.

As slim and disjointed as Memories of a Tunicate’s tracks are thick and concentrated, the 20 (!) improvisations that make up The Treasures Are suggest that only a percentage can be heard as completed statements; others as mere sound experiments. With many hovering in the one-to-two minute range that thought is intensified. A few tracks consist of little more than Pied Piper-like peeping or reed timbres that soar higher and higher or, from the other side, splayed and disjointed cello motions with guitar-like pizzicato facility or speedy spiccato swipes. Among the extended techniques displayed, there’s a point on “Treasures XVIII” where elevated pitches created on the preceding track appear unable to soar any higher, but instead are somewhat transformed into the emulation of a lyric soprano voice.

More generic are those tracks whose narratives encompass sonic story-telling, whether the motion is resolved in a tuneful or tart fashion. Of these, “Treasures XI 12” and its coda, “Treasures XII” stand out. Divided suite-like in three sections, the first begins with distant col legno scratches and reed trills which commingle into a jaunty and jumping stretch of mid-range tongue fluttering and basso string strokes. Fragmenting at the half-way mark, the exposition breaks from brisk string pressure from Rodrigues and echoing timbres from Sjöstrom, before a nasal reed tone with presto string sweeps complete the track. Revived during “Treasures XI 12”, pinched upwards reed shrill and swelling cello strokes reach a chamber-music-like ending pleasantly in unison. “Treasures IV” suggest a near-pastoral intersection between dynamic string and reed tones, culminating is what in other circumstances could be a violin-and-flute recital, until Sjöstrom’s blowing of unaccented air and Rodrigues’ wavering disjoined scrubs confirm the track’s aleatoric nature. In contrast, the penultimate “Treasures XIX” is almost four minutes of col legno, splayed and pulled string patterns with squeezes, peeps and a final whistle from the saxophonist. “Treasures XX” continues and then completes the program by melding staccato pitches from the cellist and altissimo reed squeaks, with variations on the theme that brings out a new melody at the same time. Either variation of these saxophone-cello duets can serve as object lessons in how profound duo improvisation can be created.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Memories: 1. Doliolid 2. Octacnemidae 3. Pyrosomes 4. Salp 5. Thalicia 6. Aplousobranchia 7. Stolidobranchia

Personnel: Memories: Peter Brötzmann (tenor saxophone, Bb clarinet and tárogató) and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello and electronics)

Track Listing: Treasures: 1. Treasures I 2. Treasures II 3. Treasures III 4. Treasures IV 5. Treasures V 6. Treasures VI 7. Treasures VII 8. Treasures VIII 9. Treasures IX 10. Treasures X 11. Treasures XI 12, Treasures XII 13. Treasures XIII 14. Treasures XIV 15. Treasures XV 16. Treasures XVI 17. Treasures XVII 18. Treasures XVIII 19. Treasures XIX 20. Treasures XX

Personnel: Treasures: Harri Sjostrom (sopranino and soprano saxophones) and Guilherme Rodrigues (cello)