Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Peter Brotzmann Octet - Machine Gun (Cien Fuegos, 2018)

One of the most famous recordings in all of free jazz, or all of jazz for that matter, was recorded for saxophonist Peter Brotzmann's own Bro label in 1968. From that small beginning, the legend grew with each re-issuing: first on FMP in 1971 and 1990, then Atavistic's Complete Machine Gun Sessions in 2007, and most recently on this excellent re-issue of the original album with the cover art and photographs faithfully restored, and the music pressed beautifully on thick vinyl. The album features a veritable who's who of European free jazz talent at the beginning of their careers with Brotzmann on tenor and baritone saxophones, Evan Parker on tenor saxophone, Willem Breuker on tenor saxophone, Peter Kowald and Buschi Niebergall on bass, Sven-Ake Johansson and Han Bennink on drums and Fred Van Hove on piano. The ferocity of the opening track, Brotzmann's own "Machine Gun," still kicks like a mule even after fifty years. The group takes the scalding spiritual new thing of American free jazz of John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Pharoah Sanders and filters it though a European sensibility and achieving immortality with raw and rending gasps of saxophone over unfettered percussion and skittish piano that was the sound of creation in progress. Parker takes the first solo statement, already developing out of his original Coltrane influence and showing signs of the massively influential player he would become. The interlude for Van Hove to shine gives a brief breather but still is still intense as he moves relentlessly over the length and breadth of the keyboard, clearing a path for the back to back solos of Brueker and Brotzmann, that are just simply explosive. It's a wonder they don't spontaneous combust, given the heat that the band is producing and the levels and gradations of energy that is being expelled simply beggars belief. After seventeen minutes plus of the title track, the second side of the album begins with Van Hove's "Responsible (For Jan Van der Ven)" and while most people discussing this album talk about the explosive nature of the music, an rightly so, this track supplies the light that allows those towering sections to cast their shade. The sound is more open and rhythmic, with a thicket of dual bass and percussion bubbling constantly beneath the surface, and the saxophonists following the pianist into further uncharted territory where swathes of open space are met with splashes of color and vibrancy. The final track on the album is "Music for Han Bennink I" composed by Breuker, displaying how important the percussionists were to this album, and the impish nature of Benink's playing and personality keeps the music fresh and continually moving forward. The whole band drives the music forward in a constant incessant forward push driving to the spectacular finish of an album which would in time come to be regarded as a landmark in jazz history. Machine Gun - amazon.com

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