One of a dual CD/LP release documenting three nights at London's Cafe Oto by the trio of Peter Brotzmann on reeds, William Parker on double bass, guembri, shakuhachi, and shenai, and Hamid Drake on drums, an incredible display of improvised music from three masters of the form.
Brotzmann, Peter / William Parker / Hamid Drake
Song Sentimentale [VINYL]
Released in: Great Britain
Outside of the 2CD release Never Too Late But Always Too Early (2003) there has been scant documentation of one of the most dynamic pairings in all free jazz. Song Sentimentale rectifies this anomaly with a full-blown audio account of the breathtaking communicative heights obtained by these three legends of the living. Over three nights in January 2015, the trio seduced a winter-worn crowd with the kind of organic interplay only these three can conjure. Warm and urgent, the material unveils a wide range of techniques and emotions. This is music on the edge of itself; a living, breathing and existing force documented for repeated visits."-OtorokuAlso available on CD.
"Song Sentimentale (OTORoku) is a split format release, with different music on different formats with the same title and cover art.
These are live recordings - belated sequels to 2001's Never Too Late But Always Too Early (Eremite), which is perhaps the pick of all Brötzmann's recorded work. They document the reunion of Peter Brötzmann, Hamid Drake and William Parker - 2/3 of the great Die Like a Dog quartet - and their magic is still very much intact.
With six sets recorded over three nights at London's Cafe Oto in January 2015 to cull from, the label has elected to put two titles out on LP and three others on CD, with all available as downloads. Both physical formats have been thoughtfully compiled
I went to two of those concerts, and both featured long first sets of pretty intense improvisation and more rhythmically-orientated second sets, which began with Hamid Drake accompanying his own vocals on frame drum, and Parker playing a guembri (Moroccan three stringed lute), shakuhachi (Japanese flute), or shenai (Asian oboe). The CD, which has the greater variety of material, ends with one such cut, while the LP is focused entirely on more discursive improvisation.
The 24:58 title piece, the main feature of the LP, is meat-and-potatoes Brötzmann, but an exceptionally well-rounded performance. It begins with Brötzmann sounding a sour Jericho blast as the opening salvo in a long sequence of lung-burst variations on tárogató (Hungarian reed instrument). Meanwhile Drake whips up a crisp rhythm and Parker's bass maintains a centre of low pressure pulse before taking over rhythm duties to let Drake mix things up.
Together they marshall freedom, always measuring time and rhythm against the tidal momentum the whole thing coheres to - a bravura performance that's always focused on the right now. There's intensity here, but after Brötzmann takes a breather, then re-enters on tenor sax, it slowly leaches into tenderness, and the lengthy resolution is beautifully measured.
The LP flip, the 18:52 "Dark Blues", continues where "Song Sentientale" leaves off, with Brötzmann ruminatively blue on tenor and his partners tending the embers of a fire burnt low. When a hint of harshness enters the saxophonist's tone, Parker picks some great elastic contrabass lines I initially mistook for guembri, then plays a long, lovely bowed solo. A fretful and agitative sax/drums duet then leads to a briefly fiery, then confoundingly jaunty resolution.
As for the CD, "Shake-A-Tear"(11:40) opens proceedings with sour clarinet bleats and sliding bass notes that pick through a barrage of kit percussion. It's a short, chewy introduction to a passage of edgy negotiation between bass and drums, another fine bowed contrabass solo, and a re-entry on tenor that soon sees Brötzmann blazing a trail through thorny improv territory.
"Stone Death" (26:17) is classic Brötzmann. An imperious, tenor sax solo to start-songlike phrases pitched into silence-then a trio exposition with an anthemic cast. Where Brötzmann's phrases are chewy and trenchant his rhythmic support is crisp and buoyant, and the improvisation flows with liquid grace, losing some of its bounce only after a fine arco bass/drums duet.
Brötzmann really tears into a rebarbative exchange with Drake, and the heat rises after Parker's re-entry until the trio are fairly barrelling along on a locomotive groove. Shifts in time and tempo accommodate a slip into easier rhythm after fifteen minutes, but Brötzmann is indomitable, and it takes an almost complete draw-down for him to desist. Sparks of his cussed temper flare again during a supple and fleetingly tender negotiation of resolution.
"Dwellers in a Dead Land" (24:58) brings a complete change, with Drake finger-tapping and palm-slapping rhythms on a frame drum, and singing, in a language I can't identify (Mandé, perhaps) while Parker plays a thrumming, elastic string accompaniment on guembri. Brötzmann, now on tárogató, makes a piercing entry and takes up the lead after four minutes, but the rhythmic vibe remains distinctly north/west African.
Drake injects some low-key rumbling thunder on the frame drum, but Parker's thrumming keeps things grounded, and the duo take things back to Maghrebi basics when Brötzmann briefly lays out after 11 minutes. When he returns with short, strangulated phrases on clarinet, Parker reinforces the Gnawa/Jemaa el-Fnaa vibe with a parallel improvisation on sintir-aping shenai.
Drake's return to the kit drumming whips up some great Euro-improv meets hypnotic trance music, with both reeds wailing over bouncing kick drum and snare tattoos. The set's resolution is something altogether different though. The trio's playing is exceptionally delicate at the end, with Parker feather-light on shakuhachi.
Each release has its own flavour then. The CD is the more rounded, and representative of the live sets that make this trio the best live act I've ever seen (excepting maybe Tom Waits). The vinyl LP is a better showcase for Brötzmann as a complete saxophonist, with depths of tenderness to match his fiercest playing. Both are absolutely essential."-Tim Owen
• Show Bio for Peter Brotzmann
"Born Remscheid, Germany on 6 March 1941; soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass saxophones, a-clarinet, e-flat clarinet; bass clarinet, tarogato.
Peter Brötzmann's early interest was in painting and he attended the art academy in Wuppertal. Being very dissatisfied with the gallery/exhibition situation in art he found greater satisfaction playing with semi-professional musicians, though continued to paint (as well as retaining a level of control over his own records, particularly in record sleeve/CD booklet design). In late 2005 he had a major retrospective exhibition jointly with Han Bennink - two separate buildings separated by an inter-connecting glass corridor - in Brötzmann's home town of Remscheid.
Self-taught on clarinets, he soon moved to saxophones and began playing swing/bebop, before meeting Peter Kowald. During 1962/63 Brötzmann, Kowald and various drummers played regularly - Mingus, Ornette Coleman, etc. - while experiencing freedoms from a different perspective via Stockhausen, Nam June Paik, David Tudor and John Cage. In the mid 1960s, he played with American musicians such as Don Cherry and Steve Lacy and, following a sojourn in Paris with Don Cherry, returned to Germany for his unorthodox approach to be accepted by local musicians like Alex von Schlippenbach and Manfred Schoof.
The trio of Peter Brötzmann, Peter Kowald and Sven-Ake Johansson began playing in 1965/66 and it was a combination of this and the Schoof/Schlippenbach Quintet that gave rise to the first Globe Unity Orchestra. Following the self-production of his first two LPs, For Adolphe Sax and Machine gun for his private label, BRÖ, a recording for Manfred Eicher's 'Jazz by Post' (JAPO) [Nipples], and a number of concert recordings with different sized groups, Brötzmann worked with Jost Gebers and started the FMP label. He also began to work more regularly with Dutch musicians, forming a trio briefly with Willem Breuker and Han Bennink before the long-lasting group with Han Bennink and Fred Van Hove. As a trio, and augmented with other musicians who could stand the pace (e.g. Albert Mangelsdorff on, for example, The Berlin concert), this lasted until the mid-1970s though Brötzmann and Bennink continued to play and record as a duo, and in other combinations, after this time. A group with Harry Miller and Louis Moholo continued the trio format though was cut short by Miller's early death.
The thirty-plus years of playing and recording free jazz and improvised music have produced, even on just recorded evidence, a list of associates and one-off combinations that include just about all the major figures in this genre: Derek Bailey (including performances with Company (e.g. Incus 51), Cecil Taylor, Fred Hopkins, Rashied Ali, Evan Parker, Keiji Haino, Misha Mengelberg, Anthony Braxton, Marilyn Crispell, Andrew Cyrille, Phil Minton, Alfred 23 Harth, Tony Oxley. Always characterised as an energy player - and the power-rock setting of Last Exit with Ronald Shannon Jackson, Sonny Sharock and Bill Laswell, or his duo performances with his son, Casper, did little to disperse this conviction - his sound is one of the most distinctive, life-affirming and joyous in all music. But the variety of Brötzmann's playing and projects is less recognised: his range of solo performances; his medium-to-large groups and, in spite of much ad hoc work, a stability brought about from a corpus of like- minded musicians: the group Ruf der Heimat; pianist Borah Bergman; percussionist Hamid Drake; and Die like a dog, his continuing tribute to Albert Ayler, with Drake, William Parker and Toshinori Kondo. Peter Brötzmann continues a heavy touring schedule which, since 1996 has seen annual visits to Japan and semi-annual visits to the thriving Chicago scene where he has played in various combinations from solo through duo (including one, in 1997, with Mats Gustafsson) to large groups such as the Chicago Octet/Tentet, described below. He has also released a number of CDs on the Chicago-based Okka Disk label, including the excellent trio with Hamid Drake and the Moroccan Mahmoud Gania, at times sounding like some distant muezzin calling the faithful to become lost in the rhythm and power of the music.
The "Chicago Tentet" was first organized by Brötzmann with the assistance of writer/presenter John Corbett in January 1997 as an idea for a one-time octet performance that included Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang (drums), Kent Kessler (bass) and Fred Lomberg-Holm (cello), Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams (reeds), and Jeb Bishop (trombone). The first meeting was extremely strong and warranted making the group an ongoing concern and in September of that same year the band was expanded to include Mats Gustafsson (reeds) and Joe McPhee (brass) as permanent members (with guest appearances by William Parker (bass), Toshinori Kondo (trumpet/electronics), and Roy Campbell (trumpet) during its tenure) - all in all a veritable who's who of the contemporary improvising scene's cutting edge. Though the Tentet is clearly led by Brötzmann and guided by his aesthetics, he has been committed to utilizing the compositions of other members in the ensemble since the beginning. This has allowed the band to explore an large range of structural and improvising tactics: from the conductions of Mats Gustafsson and Fred Lonberg-Holm, to the vamp pieces of Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake, to compositions using conventional notation by Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams, to Brötzmann's graphic scores - the group employs almost every contemporary approach to composing for an improvising unit. This diversity in compositional style, plus the variety in individualistic approaches to improvisation, allows the Tentet to play extremely multifaceted music. As the band moves from piece to piece, it explores intensities that range from spare introspection to all out walls of sound, and rhythms that are open or free from a steady pulse to those of a heavy hitting groove. It is clear that the difficult economics of running a large band hasn't prevented the group from continuing to work together since its first meeting. Through their effort they've been able to develop an ensemble sound and depth of communication hard to find in a band of any size or style currently playing on the contemporary music scene."-EFI (European Free Improvisation Pages) (http://www.efi.group.shef.ac.uk/mbrotzm.html)
^ Hide Bio for Peter Brotzmann
• Show Bio for William Parker
"William Parker is a bassist, improviser, composer, writer, and educator from New York City, heralded by The Village Voice as, "the most consistently brilliant free jazz bassist of all time."
In addition to recording over 150 albums, he has published six books and taught and mentored hundreds of young musicians and artists.
Parker's current bands include the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, In Order to Survive, Raining on the Moon, Stan's Hat Flapping in the Wind, and the Cosmic Mountain Quartet with Hamid Drake, Kidd Jordan, and Cooper-Moore. Throughout his career he has performed with Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Milford Graves, and David S. Ware, among others."-William Parker Website (http://www.williamparker.net/)
^ Hide Bio for William Parker
• Show Bio for Hamid Drake
"Hamid Drake (born August 3, 1955) is an American jazz drummer and percussionist. He lives in Chicago, IL but spends a great deal of time touring worldwide. By the close of the 1990s, Hamid Drake was widely regarded as one of the best percussionists in jazz and avant improvised music. Incorporating Afro-Cuban, Indian, and African percussion instruments and influence, in addition to using the standard trap set, Drake has collaborated extensively with top free-jazz improvisers. Drake also has performed world music; by the late 70s, he was a member of Foday Musa Suso's Mandingo Griot Society and has played reggae throughout his career.
Drake has worked with trumpeter Don Cherry, pianist Herbie Hancock, saxophonists Pharoah Sanders, Fred Anderson, Archie Shepp and David Murray and bassists Reggie Workman and William Parker (in a large number of lineups)
He studied drums extensively, including eastern and Caribbean styles. He frequently plays without sticks; using his hands to develop subtle commanding undertones. His tabla playing is notable for his subtlety and flair. Drake's questing nature and his interest in Caribbean percussion led to a deep involvement with reggae."-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamid_Drake)
^ Hide Bio for Hamid Drake
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Shipping Weight: 16.00 units
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Catalog ID: ROKU 016LP
Squidco Product Code: 22231
Country: Great Britain
Recorded Live at Cafe OTO in London, England, on January 27th, 28th and 29th, 2015.
Peter Brotzmann-tenor saxophone, B flat clarinet, tarogato
William Parker-double bass, guembri, shakuhachi, shenai
Hamid Drake-drums, frame drum, voice
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1. Song Sentimentale 22:16
1. Dark Blues 18:49