Wild Men

The Wild Mans BandFredensborg (Ninth World, 2015)

R-7181449-1436896950-5521.jpegAquarius Records was a treasure of the Mission District, a home for the freakish, the experimental, the noisy, and the obscure, but its jazz section was rather thin. When I saw a CD with Peter Brotzmann’s name on it, I took the dive.

I figured The Wild Mans Band (Ninth World, 1998) to be a one-off, with three Peters — Peter Brotzmann (clarinet/sax), Peter Friis Nielsen (bass), and and Peter Ole Jørgensen (drums) — joined by Johannes Bauer (trombone). Turns out, it’s been an ongoing series of albums on the Danish label Ninth World Music, with the core trio joined by a different guest each time. The latest installment, Fredensborg, adds saxophonist Mikolaj Trazaska to the three Peters.

The 25-minute “Cranberry Trail” is a terrific extended piece, opening the album with the long-burst energy blast that you’d hope for. Brotzmann and Trazaska trade barbs while the rhythm section keeps the kettle percolating. I love the slower middle segment, where Nielsen’s amped-up bass bubbles up. It’s a great sound against Brotzmann’s raspy long tones, and then Trazaska comes in on the high register to flesh out the picture. Great passage.

“Black Orb Riders” is a moderately paced workout that’s less of a blur, opening more room to hear Nielsen’s dense bass work, and “Mount Mush-Room” ends the album with an exhilarating sprint.

But I want to point out “Spiders of Time,” which features a placid flute-bass duet contrasted by abrasive shrieks from Brotzmann. It’s funny, but Brotzmann eventually merges into the more placid mood. Unsetting drumming by Jørgensen preserves a bit of an edge, giving Brotzmann an opening to rebuild the aggressive mood from a darker angle that fits more organically — in other words, they move from a place of contrast into a cohesive mood and a satisfying piece.

The Wild Mans series includes an installment with Mats Gustafsson (Three Rocks and a Pine, 1999) and one with just the core trio (Live København 2009, released in 2015).

Peter Brötzmann & Paal Nilssen-Love at CNM

Brötzmann and Nilssen-Love play Thursday, Nov. 14, at Kuumbwa Jazz and Friday, Nov. 15, at Duende.

View from the back row.
View from the back row.
What can I say? It was a hoot — and a howl, a mighty one that overwhelmed the Center for New Music‘s acoustics and turned Paal Nilssen-Love’s snare drum and cymbals into a fountain of white noise. Peter Brötzmann’s saxes came through loud and clear, though, and the sellout crowd that had come Wednesday night to hear his lung-busting improvising wasn’t disappointed.

There was no warm-up phase. Brötzmann opened the concert with a screeching blast of sax, and Nilssen-Love jumped in with full thunder — and off they went.

Brötzmann's weapons of choise.
Brötzmann’s weapons of choise.

As usual, long stretches of the sound consisted of motifs, little screamed phrases that Brötzmann would repeat a few times over Nilssen-Love’s tumult before shifting to the next phrase. Some of the best parts, though, came when things quieted down and Brötzmann’s playing got more emotional.

One quieter phase had his sax turning almost romantic, but with the volume still turned up to at least 7 and with a ragged, buzzing sound, like a lament sung by a burly king who doesn’t realize his robes are in tatters. Later, there was a more properly soft phase, with Brötzmann playing solo, featured some hardier melody and a sensitive air, until he started ramping the volume back up, encouraging Nilssen-Love to pound his way back in.

I really enjoyed Nilssen-Love’s playing, and I hope it wasn’t lost on the crowd. His solos tended toward the loud side — one solo oversaturating the snare and cymbals to intentionally create that white-noise effect, another featuring incredibly fast, rumbling toms. (The snare and cymbals are his, and the rest of the drum kit was borrowed.)

For an encore, Brötzmann turned to a melodic motif, one with an Ayler-like marching-band flair. It’s a well-played tool from his bag of tricks and seemed appropriate for a quick finale number.

The aftermath.
The aftermath.

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.)

Marco Eneidi, Peter Brotzmann: Big Sounds

B.E.E.K.Live at Spruce Street Forum (Botticelli, 2004)

Alto saxophonist Marco Eneidi isn’t easy to find on disk these days.  So, it’s exciting that the latest CD on his Botticelli label is available again.

Botticelli was never widely distributed; your main sources were Eneidi himself and the Eremite label, where he had found a sympathetic ear. Downtown Music Gallery was listening, too, and they’ve found an old box of CDs from a quartet that paired Eneidi with Peter Brotzmann for a double-sax attack, with Jackson Krall (drums) and Lisle Ellis (bass). (DMG notes the finding on its latest newsletter.)

When I think of these two saxophonists, I think of high energy levels — Brotzmann in forceful, thundering volume; Eneidi in a more darting, agile strategy.

And the album delivers on that promise. It’s a squall. Even when the saxophonists take a break — exchanging long blaring tones during “No. 1,” for instance — Krall’s drums and Ellis’ bass keep up their relentless blowing. It’s a towering monolith of sound.

The audio quality on this live recording isn’t excellent, but you can still lose yourself in the dizzying attack presented here, especially at the points where the two saxophones join paths — constructive interference — to form a spiraling white hole of energy.

It’s not all bluster. On “No. 4” (fourth of five baically untitled tracks), Eneidi — at least I think it’s him — improvises an easygoing nighttime jazz/blues, backed by calm bass and Krall using his brushes. Soon enough, though, the piece simmers into a more chaotic, freeform jumble. “No. 2” likewise starts with a light touch, in what could be considered some of the best playing on the album, fast and quiet.

It’s an album worth seeking out. Ken Waxman’s Jazz Weekly review, which displays a deeper knowledge of history and saxophones than I’ve got, can be found here. And if you can read Spanish, this page might tell you something.