Thursday, November 08, 2018

Peter Brotzmann and Heather Leigh - Sparrow Nights (Trost, 2018)

The musical empathy and bond between pedal steel guitarist Heather Leigh and multi reed instrument master Peter Brotzman has deepened over the course of recordings and live performances, culminating in this mysterious and powerful gem of an album. Brotzmann makes full use of his arsenal of instruments, including b-flat, bass and contra alto clarinets, and alto, tenor and bass saxophones. The album reaches its peak on "This Time Around" with scalding, near industrial strength steel guitar with a torrential ringing tone that is also scratching, and howling in a feral manner. This is met by tenor saxophone, playing lone bellowing tones, sharp and hot as the the duo coalesces into a withering improvisation heading through the atmosphere and out into space. Brotzmann is in full bellowing mode and the amount of color, light, and shade that Leigh is able to summon from her instrument is very impressive, especially when she takes a brief solo that seems to consist of a shower of multicolored aural sparks flying in the air to cap this amazing performance. This is followed by another excellent track, "River of Sorrow" which is a long improvisation, beginning with spirited rivers of guitar tone rising and cresting as the horn enters, but the performance remains fairly relaxed in the opening section, developing an exploratory mindset. Brotzmann begins to open up, roaring into his instrument with sounds akin to tearing metal, ripping and rending, which gets truly wild as Leigh ups the ante with close encounters type alien sounds coming from her guitar. The tones and sounds the two musicians are so disparate from one another that they work perfectly together using their own personal means of communication to creating a sound image that is unforgettable. The piercing tones of pedal steel guitar are met by growling tenor saxophone on "All of Us" with Brotzmann marking his territory in a bear like apex predator manner while Leigh raises and lowers the tone and volume of her instrument in an attempt to sooth the savage beast. They work well as a team, moving to a near quiet section with some bluesy accents and abstract soundscapes. This was the duo's first studio album and allowed them more time to experiment and explore. It's a lengthy album, with the compact disc version is well over seventy minutes, but it is worth savoring because these are two musicians who have developed a synergistic relationship and use it to create original music that is beyond genre and classification. Sparrow Nights -

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