Haaz & Company

May 31, 2001

Unlawful Noise
Atavistic/Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 219 CD

Peter Brötzmann
Fuck De Boere
Atavistic/Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 211 CD

The Jazz history books will have to be rewritten yet again with the appearance of these archival-style CDs. The first reveals that Peter Brötzmann’s famous octet version of “Machine Gun” in 1968 wasn’t its first performance. This CD includes a nonet run through of the piece recorded live at a jazz festival by German radio, two months earlier. The second disc shows that 1960s-style Energy Music, which in 1976 was deemed as passé and unfashionable as bell bottoms and headbands in North America, was still going strong in Europe.

No more or less in-your-face that the justly-celebrated version which has been constantly available from FMP since it’s first pressing, this “Machine Gun” adds German tenor saxophonist Gerd Dudek to the usual suspects who would make the definitive version a couple of months later. Since none of the solos are identified, it’s hard to know which one — if any — of these incendiary reed explosions came from Dudek’s horn. It’s instructive to realize, however that one probably issued from Evan Parker’s saxophone. Besides the caterwauling, this “Machine Gun” version reminds us that pianist Fred Van Hove and the twin bassists of Peter Kowald and Bushi Niebergall brought a certain understated dignity to the proceedings, no matter the circumstances. Imagine too what those unprepared jazz fans at the Frankfort jazz festival must have thought when facing this fusillade.

Recorded in 1970, the almost 37-minute title track could be seen (heard) as Brötzmann’s “Ascension”. Certainly having seven horn players — including four trombonists — elaborate the theme, made it about as dense and unforgiving as possible. Moreover, the massed ‘bone brigade gave the tenor saxophonist enough brass counterpoint to elaborate those gut-wrenching explosions for which he was already known. Dutch reedmanWillem Breuker is likely responsible for the almost equally ferocious clean-up sax solos, and, as he’s continued to do so to this day, Dutch drummer Han Bennink doesn’t need a percussion partner to blast out the beat. Everything and anything that passes by gets hit by the flying Dutchman and it’s probably him who is responsible for the occasional falsetto cries and yelps as well.

Again it’s impossible to know the trombonist source for the savage tone that comes to the fore during those brass forays. But on guesswork alone, it’s probably Brötzmann’s Globe Unity Orchestra mate Briton Paul Rutherford, who was always known for elongating a mean slide. This skill is especially noticeable when the brassman goes head to head with the screaming lead reed molester.

Spending most of his time on the organ, which he treats as a sort of jittery, angular electric piano — good for protracted background asides but not for solos — Belgian Van Hove illuminates a different persona than with his more elegant piano work. It’s the same for British guitarist Derek Bailey. Famous for his busy, yet sometimes barely audible fret work, when facing down the massed horn here he turns into a free improv Jeff Beck, knocking out a couple of solos that are as metallic as they are surprising. As for the title, it comes from an expression used by exiled South African bassist Johnny Dyani, in describing the protracted struggle against the apartheid government of his homeland, which contained a high percentage of people with Boer background.

Six years later, Dyani himself is present on Unlawful NoiseE, along with fellow South African exile Louis Moholo on drums, Brötzmann, Bennink (on clarinets [!] and percussion) and his brother, reedist Peter Bennink. Leader, pianist Kees Hazevoet, is another “lost” Dutch Free Jazz composer. Prominent on the scene from the early 1960s in bands with the likes of Moholo, Breuker, Bennink and Brötzmann, Hazevoet gave up music at the end of the 1970s, turned to academe and is now a well-respected ornithologist.

Circumstances may have conspired against a committed atonalist like the pianist. With its high pitch clarinet assault and freeform rhythm, discs like this may have seemed like 1960s throwbacks to hip jazzers of the time. The jazz heroes of the time were folks like George Benson, Chuck Mangione, Chick Corea’s Return To Forever and Weather Report. Fusion, speedy solos, sales charts and “reaching the people” were catchwords of nearly every one of these men. Hazevoet would have fit in with them about as well as Mahatma Gandhi would have at a convention of mutual fund salesmen. Instead the pianist — and each of the musicians featured here — was secure in his own vision, without worrying about going platinum or Grammy awards.

Both extended pieces actually seem to part of a much longer blow out, since the first merely fades out at the end, then, followed by a couple seconds of silence the second, equally anarchistic piece kicks in. Can you imagine Keith Jarrett, enveloped as he was even then, in kid gloves sound reproduction doing a disc like this? Or what about fusion mavens George Duke and Stanley Clarke? They would certainly have sneered that Hazevoet’s methods couldn’t produce a commercial product.

Instead, on this session, the four clarinetists spend much of the time testing the stratosphere, the saxes indulge in some concentric outbursts, and in his occasional solos Brötzmann unleashes enough energy to counter any blackout caused by Pacific Gas & Electric. If a melody breaks through, though, it often sounds like the uncomplicated, repeated riff that ends “Machine Gun” or the nursery rhymes favored by Albert Ayler.

Everything holds together because of the outstanding — and sometimes audible — section work of Dyani and Moholo, aided and abetted by Bennink tossing what sounds like the entire contents of his houseboat as percussion into the mix. Throughout, Hazevoet keeps up a constant stream of undisciplined piano clusters and arpeggios. Taken as a whole, Unlawful Noise is both stimulating and poignant. It’s bracing as only the freest music played by committed musicians can be. But it’s melancholy as well, because the burgeoning jazz business of the 1980s and beyond didn’t leave any room for joyous noisemakers like the pianist. Our loss is birds’ gain. At least some artifacts of freer decades, like these two discs, exist.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Fuck: 1. Machine Gun 2. Fuck De Boere

Personnel: Fuck:1: Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Gerd Dudek, Willem Breuker (saxophones); Fred Van Hove (piano); Peter Kowald, Bushi Niebergall (bass); Han Bennink, Sven-Åke Johansson (drums) 2: Malcolm Griffiths, Willem van Manen, Niebergall, Paul Rutherford (trombones); Brötzmann, Parker, Breuker (saxophones); Van Hove (piano, organ); Bennink (drums)

Track Listing: Unlawful: 1. Unlawful Noise 2. Agitprop Bounce

Personnel: Unlawful Peter Bennink (alto and sopranino saxophones, clarinet); Peter Brötzmann (tenor saxophone, clarinets); Han Bennink (clarinets, bass clarinet, percussion); Kees Hazevoet (piano, clarinet); Johnny Dyani (bass) and Louis Moholo (drums)