Saturday, May 05, 2007

Brotherhood of Breath - Live at Willisau (Ogun, 1973)

The progressive big band Brotherhood of Breath evolved from a core of musicians that left South Arfica to escape the brutal apartheid regime in power. After settling in London, this group began to attract the cream of the crop of British improvisers for a workshop big band that eventually became a touring ensemble with shifting and changing personnel. This particular edition contained the nominal leader Chris MacGregor on piano, Evan Parker on saxophone and Louis Moholo on drums amongst others. With a cacophonous opening, the music is arranged, but in a quasi-free way that allows the players a lot of freedom of movement and keeps the energy level very high. Smaller sub-groupings will emerge from time to time, like the piano and bass interlude, or the fine trumpet feature that begins at around the 26 minute mark. Mololo's drums are featured throughout the recording and he really drives the music by doing things like slipping in a march feel and prodding a soloist to reach ever higher. A strong collective improvisation section near an hour into the concert gives everybody a chance to stretch out and blow, and as the concert winds to a close, the band makes a joyful noise riffing a jaunty theme as Moholo knocks out a funky back-beat. This is a very good record and a fine example progressive big band jazz and the fine quality of European jazz musicians at the time.

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