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Reviews of Recent Media

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet
Ultraman vs. Alien Metron
Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsDLP002

Peter Brötzmann + Milford Graves + William Parker
Past Tense Future
Black Editions Archive BEA-001

Peter Brötzmann + Fred Van Hove + Han Bennink
Jazz in der Kammer Nr. 71
Trost TR 222

These collections document different phases of Peter Brötzmann’s activities over the past half-century. Jazz in der Kammer Nr. 71 is further confirmation that the early ‘70s trio with Fred Van Hove and Han Bennink was an early flagship unit of European free improvisation. Brötzmann’s extensive network of Stateside colleagues is represented by Past Tense Future, with Milford Graves and William Parker, and his Chicago Tentet’s Ultraman vs. Alien Metron, which were recorded less than 100 days apart in 2002. Heard together, the three albums present Brötzmann the young firebrand and the graying eminence.

Recorded in 1974 at the Deutches Theater in East Berlin, Jazz in der Kammer Nr. 71 is a significant addition to the ironic trio’s discography, the reason rooted in a detail in Dagmar Gebers’ cover photo: Van Hove is playing sheet music perched on the piano, while Bennink looks on – Brötzmann is a step or two behind, drinking a pint. That sheet music may well have been used at any of several points in the proceedings where the pianist delves into European idioms. The revelation that they used written material is consistent with their approach to structure. By the next-to-last year of their eight-year run, the trio had developed a remarkable facility in stringing episodes together to make long, intriguingly shaped pieces, brimming with jolting transitions. There’s plenty of the expected full-bore blowing, which is enhanced by a very good piano, expertly recorded by Radio GDR. However, Jazz in der Kammer Nr. 71 suggests that the trio’s music was not simply reflexive action painting, but benefited from forethought and consideration.

Peter Brötzmann © 2022 Konstantin Drobil

By the mid-1980s, Brötzmann was collaborating with several notable African Americans, Milford Graves and William Parker prominent among them. Both the drummer and the bassist were attuned to an approach to rhythm informed by a greater diasporic sphere of reference than commonly expressed in jazz. Additionally, Parker’s penchant for subtle shifts in pulse and phrasing both on bass and doussan’gouni aligned him with Graves’ concept of biological rhythm. Whereas the music with Van Hove and Bennink privileged disruption and discontinuity, Brötzmann’s music with Graves and Parker was purposely organic, unfolding without a predetermined end point. Documenting a New York gallery gig, Historic Music Past Tense Future is a gush of exuberance. Particularly rare for a double LP – the time and distraction of flipping sides and changing discs being reliable buzz killers – this is a recording that enthralls from beginning to end. Calling an album Historic Music is fraught with contrivance, but it aptly applies here.

Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet produced an extraordinary body of work in its 14-year run. Even though he mothballed the group in 2012, recordings keep emerging that confirm the energies that rallied around him near the turn of the century. A one-sided LP, Ultraman vs. Alien Metron may be a slim addition to the group’s legacy, but nevertheless is a substantial one, supportive of the view that the Tentet was an essentially collaborative platform. Penned by Mars Williams, the nearly 20-minute piece exemplifies the turbo-charged intensity the group regularly mustered. Recorded at the sessions that yielded two of their early Okka Disks, the disc is also a reminder that the Tentet featured a veritable murderers’ row of saxophonists – rounded out by Mats Gustafsson and Ken Vandermark – who delivered consistently concussive solos. Producer John Corbett got his Vinyl Freak on for this release, using white vinyl and silk-screening Brötzmann’s cover art on the blank side, making Ultraman vs. Alien Metron a cool object that doubles as a scorching record.
–Bill Shoemaker

Hat Hut Records

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