Saturday, May 21, 2016

Peter Brotzmann and Heather Leigh - Ears Are Filled With Wonder (Not Two, 2016)

This is another fascinating combination between the legendary German reedist Peter Brotzmann, here playing tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and taragato and an unheralded and unexpected musician, in this case Heather Leigh a pedal steel guitar from the United States now living in Scotland. It is a great combination, one you may not initially think would work, what with the pedal steel normally associated with country music and the blues, but like another steel player, Susan Alcorn, Heather Leigh is really making a bold and powerful statement and holding her own with one of the heaviest of the heavyweights of freely improvised music. The music is an unbroken twenty eight minute stretch, and it unfolds like a suite, with Brotzmann at turns blustery and raw which is how we know him best, but how we might not be prepared to hear him is as a thoughtful, patient and thoroughly empathetic partner that is allowing the music to build to scale, whether that needs blasts of deep dark tenor saxophone, eerie moans of bass clarinet or the haunted exoticism of the mysterious taragato. Leigh is a sympathetic and thoughtful partner, engaging Brotzmann offering up new musical textures that allow for collective improvisation and conversation on a very high level. The album is short, but it is really as long as it needs to be, it retains the sound of surprise throughout, allowing new vistas and possibilities to open up in the way the individual instruments meld and clash and the way the individual people interact and improvise. It shows that one can never stop learning, never stop exploring, because when you continue to search with passion and deeply hewn emotion, the next state of grace could be right around the corner. Ears Are Filled With Wonder - (album excerpt) (live clip)

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