Saturday, April 17, 2010

Die Like a Dog Quartet - From Valley to Valley (Eremite, 1999)

Peter Brotzmann's quartet Die Like a Dog was originally designed to be a tribute to the great saxophonist Albert Ayler. But as the music and musicians evolved, the project moved out of its original boundaries and began to explore the length and width of freely improvised jazz. The questing and searching spirit of Ayler's music is well represented on this recording from the much missed Fire in the Valley Festival in Amherst, Mass. in 1998. Joining Brotzmann (who plays alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet and tarogato) are the wonderful rhythm team of William Parker on bass and Hamid Drake on drums. Trumpeter Roy Campbell rounds out the band. The group plays wide open freely improvised jazz, in a very exciting and passionate manner. Parker and Drake are an amazing tandem, locking into each other and providing endless rhythmic possibilities, pushing and pulling the music in unexpected directions. Campbell is an interesting addition to the band, previously Japanese trumpeter and electronic improviser Toshinori Kondo held down that spot. Campbell moves away from abstraction into a full bodied sound on the trumpet that recalls free jazz trumpeters of the past like Don Cherry and Don Ayler. Brotzmann blows with tremendous energy and passion throughout the lengthy performance, displaying extraordinary stamina. The concert is broken down into three performances, an opening free jazz quartet improvisation simply titled "Part I" then an epic forty minute improvisation "Part II" that has some outstanding playing, expecially from Parker who takes lengthy sections on bowed bass. Finally a comparatively shorter "Encore" ends the performance on a very energetic note, and much deserved wild applause from the audience. This was a very exciting album to listen to, fans of open ended free jazz will find a lot to enjoy here. While Brotzmann's music is sometimes seen as just a violent blowout, there is much here that belies that assessment. The music is dynamic and all four musicians are listening and responding to each other in real time.

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