[Atavistic / Unheard Music Series,]


It's always a thrill to hear what new things Peter Brotzmann is getting his hands on, and it seems that lately, floodgates have been wide open on a multitude of his releases.
1984 was a fruitful year for Peter with a couple of outstanding releases - one solo and the other one involving a large ensemble. "Berlin Djungle" is Brotzmann's tribute to the clarinet, an instrument he loves but doesn't all that often use in his work. Six clarinet players take center stage in this lavish production - Tony Coe, J.D. Parran, E.L. Petrowsky, Louis Sclavis, John Zorn and of course, Peter Brotzmann himself. These six are complemented by two trombonists – Hannes Bauer and Alan Tomlinson, trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, along with the power-house rhythm section of bassist William Parker and percussionist Tony Oxley. Without a doubt, this is a more-or-less organized chaos session. Momentums build slowly and develop into huge mountains of sound where everyone is basically told "Gentlemen, start your engines". When I say that this is a chaos session, I'm not exactly telling the whole story. There are too many moments of quiet beauty to recall. For instance, I love these serene passages where two or three of the clarinet players talk amongst themselves. It's really a wonder to hear just how much wonder can be produced in a huge bunch of improvisers and noise-mongerers such as this one. However, I will warn you, when it gets loud, it gets extreme. Well, maybe not as extreme as Brotzmann's "Machine Gun" days, but nonetheless, the energy is powerful. With that said, "Berlin Djungle" seems to be an exercise of two extremes - the composed with the free, the furious with the humble. Brotzmann's record with two Swedes "Medicina" is an entirely different affair. This session was recorded last year in Sweden, I would probably gather at the invitation of the rhythm section of drummer Peter Uuskyla and bassist Peter Friis Nielsen. Although there are credits given to individual members of the trio, I will guess this was more of an improvised powerhouse session, rather than sheet music gathering. Brotzmann almost recalls his days with Bennink and Van Hove, as his blowing is very direct, crisp and of course, very bold. Not one passage is wasted with useless soloing or ego-tripping. This is a trully collaborative effort. Yes, Brotzmann is the star [or else his name wouldn't stand out in the headlights on the album cover], but the rhythm section shines as well. These two have played for a long time with one another, and it shows. There is real coherence here, real determination to put this music across to the listener and most of all, real gusto! Big bravos go to all three players. Without moments such as "Medicina", improvised music of today would be left with a void. Real no-bullshit music for this plastic world.

Tom Sekowski

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