December 1, 2010

Third time lucky

As readers of this blog know, I had two unsuccessful approaches to Brötzmann's music recently. It wouldn't be fair to this great artist if I kept silent about the most recent - and very successful - approach. Today I received an email from Classics Online, notifying me that my customer review of Be Music, Night by the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet that I left on their website has been rewarded with some bonus points. Here's what I wrote there some days ago:

A positive surprise
I've seen Peter Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet at this year's Moers Festival and was very much disappointed. They mostly delivered an impenetrable wall of sound, without development, without dynamics, and seemingly without purpose. Nevertheless when I saw that Jazzwerkstatt albums are now offered here at ClassicsOnline, I had the impulse to give this group a second try. And what a difference this recording is when compared to my negative concert impression.

This music here is carefully and thoughtfully developing, it's a grand-scale sound-painting, coupled with Kenneth Patchen's poetry, which is recited during this one-hour, three-act large-form piece. The recording is pristine and clear, every musician's individual voice can be heard (well, Fred Lonberg-Holm's cello is maybe not always there, unfortunately). I used the metaphor "sound-painting" quite consciously and it's quite literally true: While the two arts of music and literature are combined here, the effect is quite visually evoking a great landscape picture.

Wonderful, recommendable sound poetry for everyone who's got an open mind for contemporary, modern/post-modern art - not just for jazz/free-jazz fans. I think this should appeal to friends of the modern classical / contemporary / composed avant-garde as well.
Now by putting this review here I am certainly bringing myself into some kind of trouble, as my words are not necessarily less esoteric than the words of the Allaboutjazz reviewer whom I criticized three months ago. I don't know if it would get better if I add more words, but at least I couldn't make it worse, so here's a try:
The exposition starts slowly and dissonantly. Interestingly in spite of the dissonance there is a sense of togetherness, a constructive togetherness in a reflective mood. After a minute or so the sax and drums start a dialogue, changing the mood from reflective to something more discursive. When the brass join in, the scene becomes more agitated and a light sense of struggle appears, though it's still far from being hot. This whole exposition tells me that this is music about the world and its people. Though we somehow all know how mankind is like, we cannot help to see the characteristics of mankind - as exemplified in individuals or with a large-scale view at the crowds - be reiterated and brought to our attention in the arts.
The main movement of this work then begins with a poetry recital (the album's subtitle A Homage to Kenneth Patchen has already prepared the listener for that). There are lines from "The Love Poems", very beautiful ones, and there are some very conventionally melodic lines of music supporting the words tenderly. Later come eruptions, noises, and beautiful melodies again. Several times some of the introductory lines to Goethe's Faust come to my mind:
So, in this narrow wooden house's bound,
Stride through the whole creation's round,
And with considerate swiftness wander
From heaven, through this world, to the world down yonder.
It's not so fitting at second thought, because in Brötzmann's case it's not a one-way. It's there and back again, and again, and again. It's an exploration informed by the hermeneutic circle. Your pre-knowledge shapes your understanding and your understanding becomes then part of your pre-knowledge, so you can have another glance at the thing from a new point of view.
These last words probably show, that my way of understanding Brötzmann's work is still quite rationalistic. Nevertheless, I cannot say that it's anti- or non-spiritual either. When we deal with the big words like "mankind" or "understanding" or "togetherness", I think there's a way to bridge the gap between ratio and spirituality. I have to admit that I can't fully, rationally describe words like these. They could be narrow, but open lanes to my own spirituality.


centrifuge said...

yeh i like de sound of that :)

GOOD MAN... hey, listen - what, really pay you in loyalty points to write short reviews? - ah, i'm too lazy to do it... but it goes to show (no disrespect to your review, which is honest and unpretentious) how little is actually expected of jazz critics at any level {ahem}

(ok, i've ridden that horse before...)

yes, your short review - if that was all of it - is indeed innocent of pretension and yet ALSO guilty: of non-specific, unquantifiable, hard-to-defend assertions which are exactly what "should" be anathema to western-trained minds (much harder to use language constructively as opposed to analytically... anatomically... isn't it?! so you can't win really - until you cut yourself loose to practise it - or so i have found..!)

c x

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Dimitri said...

Thanks. I see that you reaaaalllyyy love jazz music. I must ask have you heard Clifford Jordan's Glass Bead Games?