Saturday, June 25, 2016

Borah Bergman, Peter Brötzmann, Frode Gjerstad - Left (Not Two, 2016)

This album can be seen as a tribute to the great pianist Borah Bergman who passed away in 2012, he was an important presence on the avant jazz scene for many years. The performance was recorded at the Molde International Jazzfestival, July 17, 1996 with Peter Brötzmann on tenor saxophone, clarinet and tarogato and Frode Gjerstad on alto saxophone. Brotzmann comes out with his saxophone sounding raw as an open wound in the beginning of “Left Hand” and is met by Bergman’s free piano playing, as his fingers dance across the length of the piano. The strident saxophones and the insistent piano make for a formidable combination. The saxophonists alternate whinnying and squeals with long tones of sound the and there is deep dark piano response. Everything is wide open and the Bergman pounds the piano mercilessly as the saxophones reach a climatic outcry. There is then a quieter space for piano soloing before then the sounds pick up once again. Bergman’s deep and powerful piano playing and the potential energy of the wind players can make your forget how truly subtle their music can be. Alarming rending sounds from the saxophones are met with a squall of piano notes, as the musicians play with and against one another. They use dynamic range brilliantly, with Bergman worrying at the high end of the keyboard, and Brotzmann and Gjerstad flittering about like moths that have been drown to a flame. “Left Us” has a saxophone rising in the air, caught in an updraft of rising piano notes, the music moves faster in speed as Brotzmann’s torogato cries in the distance like a clarion call. Bergman has a solo section that is fascinating as it sounds like he is working out two completely different ideas at the same time. Blustery saxophone barrels in, howling with an bruised bellow imparting a sense of pained sadness that makes you stop in your tracks, while Bergman is there repeating one oppressive chord, until the crying stops and the moment has passed. The final track, “Left Out,” begins as a lengthy session for only the two reed players, who begin quietly, working music that has a vaguely Middle Eastern air, using silence as part of the equation. Peals of noise punctuate the silence, before the musicians come together weaving around each other like a strand of musical DNA, playing together brilliantly. Bergman comes back in about halfway through this very long free improvisation he is able to move right into the conversation as if he had been there the whole time. He develops a brief unaccompanied section of crashing bass chords and empty space. The horns move in tentatively, then charge through with raw and unmitigated power and the music becomes a very exciting collective improvisation, pausing only for a section for sparkling solo piano gradually framed and then engulfed by the saxophones playing at full throttle. The music on this album was very dynamic; it’s not just a free jazz blowout. There are sections of quieter playing that showed how patient the musicians were, and then area where everything was pushed into the red. It all melded together very well, with three excellent musicians making improvised music in real time and doing a great job of it. Left -

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