How Much Brötzmann Can You Take?

Saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love are coming to the Bay Area, and you can’t stop them. But you can go see them:

Brotzmann & Nilssen-Love. Photo by Ziga Koritnik.
Brotzmann & Nilssen-Love. Photo by Ziga Koritnik. Lifted from the Center for New Music.

Each venue promises a cozy, intimate setting for getting your eardrums blasted out. Brötzmann can certainly play quietly and sensitively, but it’s the biggest sounds that are his signature. This is a guy who told The Wire his overexpansive playing has expanded his lungs to the point of damage. Raise your hand if you didn’t realize that was even possible.

The condition doesn’t affect Brötzmann’s playing, however. So, as late as 2011 at the Musique Actuelle Festival in Victoriaville, he was able to do things like this:

Trio Roma (Victo, 2012).That’s Brötzmann and Nilssen-Love in trio with Massimo Pupillo playing an electric bass set on “kill.” They’ve obviously decided they’ll all amp it up, so to speak, to match Pupillo’s “11” setting. They do have pauses and quiet patches, but it’s a mostly sweaty and sprinting workout that makes up one of the two CDs in Solo + Trio Roma (Victo, 2012). It qualifies as a Sound of 4 experience.

That excerpt comes from only about 1 minute into a 70-minute track, by the way.

Regarding those quiet patches, here’s a segment where Pupillo sits out, and Brötzmann gets to display some delicate gruffness.

Concentric (Clean Feed, 2006)How about Nilssen-Love, who’s less familiar to most listeners? Here he is with a different saxophonist: John Butcher, whose aesthetic often tends toward the introspective — airy sounds and high-tone, slow-motion squeals. Concentric (Clean Feed, 2006) is a much different setting from Trio Roma, with Nilssen-Love going for a more sculpted sound even during the busier segments.

Sticks and Stones (Sofa, 2001)Nilssen-Love also has a solo album where he favors subtlety over bombast. Sticks & Stones (Sofa, 2001) isn’t exactly quiet — maybe “close-miked” is a better term? He solos on a rich array of percussion, making small noises that are amplified straight into your ear, as if you’re in a warm, small room with your head hovering right above the drums. He’s chosen his drums and implements so that the taps and bounces produce rich, almost liquid sounds, and you can savor every nuance, like sips of wine.

Sticks & Stones admittedly gets a little repetitious, but any one of the fairly short tracks is a treat, packed with delicious sounds and fast, rattling drumstick work.

Of course, these two gentlemen will spontaneously decide which colors to flash at these upcoming concerts. I would guess you’ll hear a little bit of all of it. Just come prepared for some big sounds.

(Each album-cover image links to eMusic, where you can sample more of the music. There is no commercial arrangement here; eMusic has no idea that I do this.)