Peter BrötzmannOctober 6, 2003
Atavistic Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 236 CD
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. Among the likely reasons that these tracks weren’t released at the time of recording is that in contrast to the original LP, the more than 17-minute tune with the two Englishmen sounds closer to certified, restrained BritImprov than the expected balls-to-the-walls Continental variety.
The top of the piece initially features rapid runs or laid back arco work from the bassist, rubato piano cadenzas, irresolute plinks and clinks from the guitarist and drumming that’s more shake and rattle than anything you would imagine from Bennink today. Van Hove’s flashing octave jumping and right-handed tremolo lines appear to share lead duties with Bailey’s flat-picking, with the others almost struggling to keep up. Only when the saxmen shows up does Niebergall assert himself with a buzzing output that takes on jagged, top-of-scale, violin-like qualities. Then Bennink, who could be making music with a collection of pots and pans — so brassy is his sound — starts to clatter away at greater volume, while Bailey retreats. Using Van Hove’s high-intensity arpeggios ranging over the keyboard as backing, Brötz and Parker make like an avant-garde Griff & Jaws produced an onslaught of curved split tones. Characteristic wild gouts of overblown notes tumble from the German’s horn, and, surprisingly, he’s answered in kind by the Briton. Before an oscillating bass line and simple piano end the proceedings, Brötzmann has asserted himself with long nasal yowls from his horn
Using the same rattling, metallic percussion, Bennink also introduces timbres that could come from struck wood block and hand-spanked conga drums on the quartet tracks, recorded in another studio six days later. With his cymbals quivering like aluminum pie plates, the Dutchman’s playing starts to resemble what you hear from Third World junkeroo bands that find their percussion instruments in garbage heaps and trash cans. However the bassist is more energized, probably spending as much time resolutely hammering on the wood with his fists and rapidly striking the front of his strings with the bow as he does bowing and plucking. As for Brötzmann, on both tunes he works himself into an altissimo, artery-bursting fury, yanking multiphonics and irregular vibrations from his reed in a style that’s half bar walking R&B tenor sax and half intestinal shrieks. It gets so that any duck quacking overblowing he exhibits is overtaken by unaccompanied renal screams, that under pressure from the rhythm section’s rapid response move into a higher and more feral range. You have to remember that this was a time when Albert Ayler was still alive and other tenor men like Pharoah Sanders, Charles Tyler, Frank Wright and Archie Shepp were playing at their most vehement. With Teutonic meticulousness Brötz seems to be going them one better.
Is this an essential disc then? Well, it’s different and certainly interesting, but only in spots offers more than expected. Still if you’re a follower of any of the men involved –and/or need another fix of unfettered Free Jazz preserved in its rawest form — the CD will unquestionably excite you.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. More nipples* 2. Fiddle-faddle 3.Fat man walks
Personnel: Peter Brötzmann (tenor saxophone); Evan Parker (soprano saxophone)*; Derek Bailey (guitar)*; Fred Van Hove (piano); Buschi Niebergall (bass); Han Bennink (drums)