Reedist Peter Brotzmann and guitarist Heather Lee has been one of Brotzmann's most current active collaborations, performing together for several years, here recorded beautifully in the studio for a 6-track LP and 10-track CD of sympathetic, emotional and articulate dialog from two musicians with an innate sense of timing and give and take borne from mutual experience.
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Label: Trost Records
Catalog ID: TROST 180LP
Squidco Product Code: 26535
Recorded and mastered in Vienna by Martin Siewert
Peter Brotzmann-tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, clarinet, bass saxophone, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet
Heather Leigh-pedal steel guitar
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• 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)
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• Show Bio for Heather Leigh
"The daughter of a coal miner, weaving a trail from West Virginia to Texas and now residing in Scotland, Heather Leigh furthers the vast unexplored reaches of pedal steel guitar. Her playing is as physical as it is phantom, combining spontaneous compositions with a feel for the full interaction of flesh with hallucinatory power sources. With a rare combination of sensitivity and strength, Leigh's steel mainlines sanctified slide guitar and deforms it using hypnotic tone-implosions, juggling walls of bleeding amp tone with choral vocal constructs and wrenching single note ascensions. In late 2015, Heather Leigh released her first proper studio album, 'I Abused Animal' on Stephen O'Malley & Peter Rehberg's Ideologic Organ/Editions Mego labels to widespread acclaim. Renowned as a fearless free improviser, 'I Abused Animal' is a breakthrough work showcasing Heather Leigh's songwriting prowess, foregrounding her stunning voice and her innovations for the pedal steel guitar. Warmly recorded in a secret location in the English countryside, the album transmutes the power of her captivating live performances to a studio setting, capturing her tactile playing in full clarity while making devastating use of volume and space. Heather Leigh explores themes of abuse, sexual instinct, vulnerability, memory, shadow, fantasy, cruelty and projection across the album's psychedelic hymnals. At times the intimacy of the recordings makes you feel like she's singing directly into your ear, playing just for you."-Heather Leigh Website (http://wishimage.com/bio)
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1. Summer Rain 02:03
2. This World Love 5:45
3. It's Almost Dark 10:09
4. Sparrow Nights 4:00
1. This Time Around 10:48
2. River Of Sorrow 12:33
sample the album:
"There is complexity in simplicity, and Sparrow Nights is Brotzmann and Leigh's most enduring record to date. A series of emotionally rich and boldly elucidated tonal and timbral exchanges played like compositions on pedal steel and reeds, the tracks (released as a six-track LP and ten- track CD) are cold-forged minimalist blues motifs dragged from instrumental laments. After three years playing together Brotzmann and Leigh's connection and understanding is by now both cerebral and deeply invested in the physical and sensory possibilities of their combined sound, while retaining a melancholic distance.
Within this duo there is fluidity - neither is the anchor - and these recordings sound with as much variety as the sea. At times Sparrow Nights carries the clarity and poeticism of still water and open horizon ("This Word Love"), and at others it contains the elemental and ferocious roar of white water breakers on black rocks ("This Time Around").
On their previous three live albums (Ears Are Filled With Wonder (2016), Sex Tape (2017), and Crowmoon (2018)), the duo have developed an intimate and intense language that manifests here as a focus on power and control, where figures blasted of unnecessary decoration are drawn from the shadows and smoke of collapse.
The studio setting also allows Brotzmann to bring a broader range of reeds than in live scenarios: where previously he has played primarily tenor, clarinet and tarogato with Leigh, here he delivers the heat of alto and the low pressure of bass saxophone and clarinet.
Brotzmann's duo with Leigh continues to trace a fresh new arc in his trajectory, and this release also falls at a time when Leigh releases Throne (EMEGO 257CD/LP), her most song-based record to date. Here as a studio duo they play a new-old blues for times of complexity, noise and chaos, continuing to redefine and re-sound possibilities for improvised music."-JLA
"Sparrow Nights offers the most comprehensive overview of the turbulent, chaotic and complex love relationship of German reeds titan Peter Brötzmann and American pedal steel guitar player Heather Leigh. Any one who have experienced this duo performs live or have listened to the duo previous three live recordings from the last three years must have sensed the strong, sensual essence of this collaboration, different from any other collaboration from Brötzmann. The duo with Leigh is one of the most active outfits of Brötzmann in recent years, often sharing the stage with other long-standing colleagues of Brötzmann - Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, guitarist Keiji Haino and drummer Sabu Toyozumi.
The live recordings, naturally, focused on the more furious, physical and even provocative sides of Brötzmann-Leigh collaboration, best captured on the explicit Sex Tape (Trost, 2017), Sparrow Nights allows both to take their intriguing relationship a step further. The studio environment enables Brötzmann to offer more sides of his strong personality, and Brötzmann has used wisely the generous studio time - spread over 78 minutes, in a six-track vinyl or ten-track disc - and explored more tonal and timbral nuances, adding the alto and bass saxophones and the b-flat, bass and contra-alto clarinets to his familiar tenor sax. Martin Siewert (of Radian) captured and mastered brilliantly at his studio in Vienna the complex dynamics of Brötzmann and Leigh. Brötzmann, as usual, did the artwork, more implicit this time than the cover of Sex Tape.
Brötzmann playing with Leigh has always suggested a gentle, touching side behind the rough and tough demeanor. The angry and aggressive blues ballads of previous live recordings have transformed now into more subtle and coherent expressions of a vulnerable and painful, but also protective and compassionate, relationship, reflecting his immense experience and one-of-a-kind wisdom. Brötzmann sounds softer than ever on the opening, straight ahead and emotional ballad "Summer Rain". Leigh deepens gently this seductive vein with minimalist, resonating lines on "The Word Love", answered by fragile, poetic cries of Brötzmann on the clarinet.
There is a strong sense of openness and fluidity in the Brötzmann and Leigh interplay, as in a relationship of a mature couple who have experienced few excruciating emotional storms. Even when the interaction becomes confrontational and melancholic as on "It's Almost Dark", dark and chaotic on the following title-piece and immediately afterwards openly brutal and bold on the "This Time Around", both still rely on their intimate kinship throughout these section.
"River of Sorrows" reaffirms that Brötzmann and Leigh reconcile, following the previous, heated confrontation, and is sweeter than expected. Both do not need more than few, simple gestures to re-establish their rare intimacy. Brötzmann alternates here between singing melodious lines on the bass clarinet and dense yet poetic cries while Leigh mirrors his emotional upheavals with raging waves of her own. "At First Sight" and "All Of Us" emphasize again and again the ecstatic, essential passion that cements this collaboration.
But, eventually, Brötzmann and Leigh are fully aware and have no illusions about the prospects of their relationship - the personal and the musical - as the aching, concluding ballad "My Empty Heart" and the intense "The Longer We're Apart" hint. Brötzmann and Leigh cry their hearts out - literally - him in his familiar ferocious mode and her in a more reserved manner. But both sound as have not said all there is to be said about this precious, stormy collaboration."-Eyal Hareuveni, The Free Jazz CollectiveAlso available on CD.
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