Long after his 70th birthday, Peter Brötzmann — the archetype of a true musician — has surprisingly been celebrated in the planets where hip futility and verbose pointlessness reign supreme. This writer — who happens to think that the anniversary in question was more significant than the centenary of John Cage’s birth this year — cannot disguise the appreciation for the profusion of recordings featuring the reedist that have been released of late. This double CD — whose contents were recorded at 2011’s Musique Actuelle Festival in Victoriaville — is a useful illustration of the still impressive clout of Brötzmann’s imagination.
The solo disc presents him at his most sensibly temperamental, a cross of heartfelt melodic phrasing and scorching upsurges characterizing three improvisations and a rendition of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman”. Either on alto and tenor sax or on the b-flat clarinet, the man transmits images of bleeding hearts amidst a thick curtain of cigar smoke. Unyielding music throughout, defined by a touching huskiness that never ceases to stir. Countless undersized cells and patterns that coagulate, flicker, snort, wail and spit in a jargon that we find irresistible.
The massively reverberating set with Massimo Pupillo and Paal Nilssen-Love sounds devastating (quite expectedly, one would say), though certainly less meaningful in terms of soul-breaking emotions. Pupillo approaches the task — as per customary attitude — as a vicious guitarist brandishing a bass, thus the pressure introduced by the overdriven lower frequencies remains the performance’s dominating feature. Nilssen-Love’s drumming is a veritable twister, rolling and thumping with very few pauses, whereas at times Brötzmann appear to fight against the accumulations of brutality generated by the others. But when he embraces the tarogato, a sharp knife is planted right into the listener’s guts, howling pitches recalling decades of confrontation and abuse, ultimate peacefulness viewed as an outright chimera.