Johannes Bauer / Peter Brötzmann / Mikolaj Trzaska

November 29, 2010


Kilogram Records 1kg 017

Building this triangular meeting around ornithologically titled tracks, the horn players on this CD prove that first-class improvisation can result from any combination of instruments. The two Germans and one Pole also confirm that extended techniques used judiciously as well as with bellicose intent can make fowl sounds as palatable as any others.

Two of the aviary adventures – Wuppertal saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and Berlin trombonist Johannes Bauer –have been in the forefront of Free Music for years, working with pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, violinist Jon Rose and bassist Barry Guy among many, many others. Gdańsk resident Mikołaj Trzaska is not as well-known, but shouldn’t remain so. Over the past 15 years he has widened his circle of playing partners from fellow Poles such as bassist Marcin Oleś and drummer Bartłomiej Oleś to Danish drummer Peter Øle Jorgensen, Belgian bassist Peter Jacquemyn and Americans multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee

Throughout the six tracks of this CD he holds his own on bass clarinet and C-melody saxophone against the formidable power of Brötzmann’s tenor and alto saxophones, clarinet and tarogato. Over in the brass section, Bauer’s game plan locks in with the reed expositions from the other two, whether he’s vibrating rapid-fire triplets, exposing staccato asides or extending gutbucket smears to their utmost.,

Sounding at points like an out-of-control brass band, the three reach the zenith of creativity on the more-than 19½-minute “Ducks Call”. Here, the multi-layered and intertwining squeals, whinnies and reed pressure from both saxophonists widen polyphonic suggestions past the expected water-fowl-like tongue slaps. With all involved however it’s up to the trombonist to prevent fowl from becoming foul. At points Bauer’s multi-tongued solo accedes to triple counterpoint, before intersecting with the two reeds to maintain parallel parlando.

Although the reedists are initially apart – one uses a strident vibrato and flutter tonguing to outline the narrative, while the other overlays colored sound tinctures to comment on the progress, their tones soon grow closer. After C-melody and alto saxophones, then two clarinets are pressed into service for duck emulations. Trzaska and Brötzmann explore every corner of the tune, honking rough and nasal fortissimo drones at one another and eventually hooking up with Bauer’s rubato tonguing. Following a Brötzmann-led finale of wide-bore snarls and glottal punctuation, the three fuse to expose layered harmonies that range from shrill to subterranean.

Other improvisations range from near bel-canto explorations to ragged deconstruction; with grainy brays erupting from all sides of the horn triangle. If Brötzmann uses false register timbres to outline a strident message then Traska responds with false register timbres and a low-intensity obbligato. Or if Bauer erupts into a paroxysm of tone spitting and valve scat singing, then his irregular phrasing is matched by unaccented lyrical lines from Brötzmann’s alto or altissimo squeals from Trzaska’s clarinet.

Of course the German saxophonist obviously felt he couldn’t attribute all the inventive glottal punctuation to wild fowl. “The ‘Albert is Missing’ Signal” which wraps up this live session is both a homage to Albert Ayler and a change for Brötzmann to shudder, spit and vibrate variants of his glossolalia-touched, and Ayler-influenced playing. Beginning a capella, he’s joined first by the Polish saxophonist and then the German trombonist for a thorough examination of contrapuntal split tones, then close-knit harmonies until an extreme altissimo squeak ends the session.

No attempt at flipping anyone the bird, this instance of all-horn improvisation captures three canny sound makers at the height of their power(s).

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Goose Talks 2. Ducks Call 3. Two Birds in a Feather 4. Storm in the Waterglass 5. Peacock’s Nightmare 6. The ‘Albert is Missing’ Signal

Personnel: Johannes Bauer (trombone); Peter Brötzmann (tenor and alto saxophones, clarinet and tarogato) and Mikolaj Trzaska (bass clarinet and C-melody saxophone)