Friday, August 06, 2010

Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet + 1 - 3 Nights in Oslo (Smalltown Superjazz, 2010)

Legendary German free-jazz tenor saxophonist Peter Brotzmann gets head billing on this five disc compilation, but he is very generous with the solo space, presenting some the cream of the crop of the European and American free jazz scene. Recorded in February of 2009 at a Norwegian jazz club, the music is spontaneous and quite exciting throughout. Discs one and five are recordings of the feature unit, The Peter Brotzmann Tentet + 1, a free jazz big band. If the notion of a big band playing free jazz seems a little alien, in practice, it works quite well. All of the musicians are extremely well disciplined and have been playing together in various groups for years, so the subtle shifting between brawny riffing, full band collective improvisation and solo spotlights is handled flawlessly. The music is tough, smart and very exciting and also contains moments of deep subtlety as well. In between these two discs, come three discs of breakout groups and musical pairings. Disc two opens with a couple of collective improvisations by the well established group Sonore, a saxophone trio consisting of Brotzmann, Ken Vandermark and Mats Gustafsson. Swirling swaths of saxophone are key here, whether improvising together or breaking out for an individual solo. Then, drummers Michael Zerang and Paal Nilssen-Love develop a lengthy percussion duet that envelops many rhythms and complex developments over the course of twenty minutes. Disc three focuses on duets, featuring two potent encounters between Ken Vandermark and Joe McPhee, and lengthy abstract improvisations from trombonist Jeb Bishop and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love. Trumpeter and saxophonist Joe McPhee leads a group called Survival Unit III on disc four developing a very interesting sound-scape with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummer Michael Zerang. He sticks around to add a little more brassy muscle to three tracks from a group called Trombone Chior, that takes the brass instrument and uses it beautifully, creating smears and strokes of musical art. So there's quite a bit of music to be heard on this set, and the diversity of the music is part of the enjoyment. The free jazz scene documented in this collection is a vibrant and exciting one, filled with possibility that the groups explore joyfully. 3 Nights in Oslo -

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