Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Peter Brotzmann - The Complete Machine Gun Sessions (Atavistic UMS, 2007)

I'd been interested in, but a little leery of this music. I kept reading about how it was a landmark, especially in the Penguin guide, who continually gave it their highest rating, but everyone writes about the daunting nature of this music. This new version pulls together the original album and other music recorded at those sessions to give a more complete look at these groundbreaking recordings. The music itself is as in-your-face and belligerent as you can imagine. "Machine Gun" is extreme free jazz with bits of riffing thrown in - shrieking saxophone that sounds like tearing metal, bowed basses swirling and stinging, strong atonal playing that was really laying down a gauntlet for free improvisation in the post Coltrane jazz world. "Responsible/For Jan Van De Ven" begins with a moment of deceptive calm, building from basses to drums to a holy riot of saxophones, before the strummed bass comes back in to introduce a nearly jaunty riff.
"Music For Han Bennink" has full force free improvisation before the introduction of Bennink's muted percussion solo. Then the full band cacophony begins anew. "Machine Gun, Second Take" Is a hair-raising reprise of the opening track, alternating saxophone solos with blasts of full band collectiveimprovisation. An alternate take of "Responsible/For Jan Van De Ven" and a roof-raising live version of "Machine Gun" round out this disc. Certainly not for the faint of heart, fans of free improvisation or "energy music" will agree with the Penguin Guide's assessment of this as one of the visionary recordings of avant-garde jazz.

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