Thursday, 3 June 2010

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet - 'Stone/Water' (OkkaDisk)

Coming on the heels of that first Die Like a Dog blastfest, the Brötzmann session here at Cinderblock HQ continues with this. Stone/Water starts out suggesting a severely intimidating stage (which was the Victoriaville festival, 1999). Three tenor saxes, with Brötzmann and Vandermark also on clarinet at times and Gustafsson as well -- makes it pretty impossible for me to distinguish who is playing what when - but that's really not the point, right? Sometimes I long for the old style of jazz liner notes where they tell you who is playing what solo when, and stereo panning is also nice but there's too many musicians here and it's also a live recording. There's a double rhythm section as well, though I'm not saying these musicians should be confined into traditional roles! But this is not the "big ball of sound" approach at all - over its 38 minutes, we get a hella grab bag of different sounds happening. Early on there's a lot of sawing of the strings - Parker and Kessler on basses, but also Fred Lomberg-Holm on cello, which gives the band this really interesting lifting up feel, like a series of slowly emerging plateaus. The earth starts to shake when both drummers really kick it in - Hamid Drake's playing is usually quite distinct but it's difficult to distinguish him from Michael Zerang. What a great surname 'Zerang' is -- I just want to append an exclamation point to the end whenever I type it. Anyway, this isn't all ten people playing all at once for 40 minutes. There are a few miniatures buried within. About fifteen minutes in there's this strangely medieval courtly jig, except not really, but it is quite woodsy and weird. FL-H is playing violin here and angling off into all sorts of different directions, creating something quite dissonant and lovely. Halfway through it's a 5-man horn solo, or whatever you call that - a quintet? The absence of bass or percussion gives things this really clarity and it's awesome to lose yourself in it, but also to single out one musician and 'follow' their zigzags. Toshihori Kondo is on this recording but his electronics, while present, mostly take a backseat except for one long call and response part (also somewhere in the middle). Soon after, you think it's all gonna come back together for a crashing finale, with the full band exploding into a raging balloon of pure fire, except it doesn't actually end, instead trickling down into this super amazing fucked up string part (about two minutes from the end) where the recording quality sounds like some lost 1950's outsider electroacoustic record and everything is weirdly hairy and then it trickles to the end. A great, great outro from what is overall a very strong recording (and quite aptly titled, as it's rocky and fluid at the same time). I've seen the Brötzmann Tentet twice with a similar lineup (never with Kondo but once with McPhee, and I think I remember Mars Williams being there once) and it never had this much clarity.

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