Peter Brötzmann

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 chine 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. Nipples’ unavailability put the same hole in the European creative music discography that would have happened with rock if The Rolling Stones Now! had quickly gone out of print. Not only would listeners have been deprived of a glimpse of the Stones with such disparate folks as Gene Pitney and Phil Spector, but some of the band’s best early blues playing would have been lost.

In the Euroimprov firmament, each of the men here has proved to be as important to that music more than three decades later as the Stones were to rock. Flemish nationalist Van Hove, has continued to refine his piano style; Bennink, from Holland, is still as bombastic as ever and has propelled many a free jazz blow out, as well as several large orchestras; Bailey is the crotchety grand old man of improv; Parker, a master of circular breathing, is arguably one of the most influential sax stylists in the world; and Brötzmann’s lung-shredding tone is still on view anywhere from Germany to Germantown. Unfortunately, though, German bassist Niebergal, died a few years ago).Probably the most unexpected part of the title track is how much both saxophonists sound like one another (sort of realizing that it was Brian Jones not Keith Richards who played lead guitar on an early Stones track). At that point, Parker seemed able to match Brötzmann power shriek for power shriek, intertwining sounds as if they were two snakes. The one extended, unaccompanied stop-time solo must be Brötz, however. Overall, the effect is exhilarating. Noteworthy too is Bailey’s work, since he’s as upfront here with literal electric lines, as he would be in the background for most of his subsequent improv projects.

On the other hand, “Green Man”, the quartet track, is quieter and more rhythm section and rhythmically-oriented. At least until the saxophonist gets warmed up. Then It’s strictly a Teutonic eruption, with Brötz exploring the range of his horn through several themes including one that echoes Albert Ayler’s “Ghosts”. His work forces Van Hove — the second soloist — to play more assertively than he does in 2000, while nothing has ever prevented Bennink from adding obstreperous percussion colors to any proceeding.If there’s a drawback to this CD, it’s that it’s less than 34 minute long. But if your interest is well recorded, quality music rather than quantity of sound you can’t go far wrong with this session.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Nipples 2. Tell The Green Man

Personnel: Peter Brötzmann and Evan Parker (tenor saxophones); Derek Bailey (guitar); Fred Van Hove (piano); Buschi Niebergal (bass); Han Bennink (drums)