Peter Brötzmann

April 24, 2001

Live at Nefertiti
Ayler aylCD-004

How many Peters does it take to make a matchless improvised music session? Well, if this CD is any indication, the correct answer is three, as long as one spells his first name as Peeter.

Approaching 60, German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann’s playing remains as boisterous as ever, and his commitment to uncompromising to free jazz is as strong as it was when he waxed the legendary MACHINE GUN in 1968. No mellowed senior statesman, his stentorian tone still extends to the skies, and he’s as likely to limit his solos to a couple of minutes as he is to start quaffing mineral water instead of the harder stuff.

In live sessions, like the one captured in a Swedish club in 1999, Brötzmann is a throwback to an even earlier jam session tradition. With the right musicians there’s no need for arrangements, solo order or even much conversation. The saxman just plants himself flat-footed on the floor, as they say in Chicago, and starts improvising. He stops when he takes the horn out of his mouth and lets others pick up the slack.

Of course, this superior strategy only works if your confreres can labor as convincingly as you. But this session proves that Brötzmann had nothing to worry about that evening. Danish bass guitarist Peter Friis Nielsen has been playing with the saxophonist for many years in the cooperative Wild Man’s Band — with, interestingly enough, another Peter, Ole Jorgensen on drums — Swedish drummer Peeter Uuskyla is resolute enough to have worked with Cecil Taylor. Additionally, he and Friis Nielsen are comfortable with one another’s idiosyncrasies, having spent more than five years as two-thirds of saxophonist Biggi Vinkeloe’s trio.

If there’s anything out-of-the-ordinary on this gig, it’s the brief, suave balladic tone Brötzmann adopts at the beginning of “Nidhog 4” — imagine Ben Webster’s sound gradually being fed through a coarse meat grinder — and the fact that he features his wooden, Hungarian tarogato on “Nidhog 3”. Beginning with an extended legato wail on that number, he slows the tempo down to such an extent that a quiet, near Oriental melody begins to be suggested. Like a lustful lover, though, he can’t control himself for long, and soon the multiphonics and avian squawks spilling from his horn get all three musicians operating at warp speed. All and all, he’s in full energy mode throughout the disc’s 71 minutes plus.

Although there’s no trading fours as such, Friis Nielsen gets a showcase on his own “Off Sight” slinking up and down the bass’s neck to great effect. No repressed rocker, like some players from the Stanley Clarke school of bass guitar excess, he’s obviously turned to the electric monster to keep up and be audible between Brötzmann’s unbridled gouts of sound and Uuskyla’s unremitting percussion blasts.

A basher, not a tickler, the drummer struts his stuff on “Third Sun”, which he also wrote. Dynamics may not be his long suit, but the sort of ceaseless drum investigation that he brings to every track, not only references 1960s energy music, but also perfectly meshes with the reedman’s vision of the world.

Brötzmann’s strength and stamina can make uebermenschen of other musicians with which he works. Live at Nefertitti is another memorable souvenir of this alchemy.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Nidhog 1 2. Nidhog 2 3. Third Sun 4. Nidhog 3 5. Off Sight 6. Nidhog 4

Personnel: Peter Brötzmann (tenor saxophone, clarinet, tarogato); Peter Friis Nielsen (electric bass); Peeter Uuskyla (drums)