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Peter Brötzmann & Paal Nilssen-Love - Sweet Sweat

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Artist: Peter Brötzmann & Paal Nilssen-Love

Album: Sweet Sweat

Label: Smalltown Superjazz

Review date: Mar. 25, 2009

The pared down arrangement of Sweet Sweat is as familiar and elemental to its principals as air and water. Peter Brötzmann has engaged in musical dialogue with drummers on countless occasions in his 68 years. Younger by a half, Paal Nilssen-Love’s resume notes fewer meetings, but that’s mainly just a function of age rather than opportunity. This particular one was captured as part of the Maijazz Festival in a small club in Stavanger, Norway, Nilssen-Love’s hometown. Norwegian saxophonist Frode Gjerstad served as producer and sound engineer, but sadly his alto remained in its case, leaving the fun to his peers. They do just fine without him, but to those acquainted with Gjerstad the potential for a three-way face-off is still tempting to speculate.

The concert covers familiar territory, unfolding in episodic fashion around Brötzmann’s reed ordinance. On the title piece, he traces somber phrases on clarinet against the tumbling atmospheric brush play of Nilssen-Love in a calm-before-the-storm colloquy. Caterwauling commences around the five-minute mark, but the drummer responds with restraint, summoning Eastern-inflected percussive patterns with ricocheting gongs that take on an almost ceremonial cant. Brötzmann gets down to business on the subsequent “Burnt Sugar,” a good and proper donnybrook that sprawls and explodes over a roiling half-hour and change span. The barrage begins on alto, bucking and gnashing in the face of a cascading percussive wall that eventually coalesces into a martial groove. It’s the sort of chest-thumping blowout on which Brötzmann’s reputation rests and he doesn’t disappoint, loosing gouts of barely-bridled noise saturated with a seismic vibrato that sounds capable of shattering pane glass. Fourteen or so minutes on, the mood turns ruminative again, Nilssen-Love turning back to his gongs and Brötzmann liming the beautiful semblance of a melody in his horn’s upper register. Following on a drum solo that encapsulates the disc’s title, Brötzmann’s back on ululating tarogato for an extended sortie that explores that Hungarian instrument’s more unsavory sonorities and ends up feeling over-long in the sum.

“Never Enough” and “Weird Blue” clock-in at mere fractions. Each offers belated exposure to the hoary Brötzmann tenor in a loquacious oratory of clipped and gnarled phrases that also exude a beguilingly wounded tenderness. Nilssen-Love peppers his partner’s musings with a constant barrage of textured percussion and Brötzmann responds with his now signature theme, “Master of a Small House,” devised in honor of deceased bassist Fred Hopkins. The unaccompanied section of the final piece is almost even better in its naked emotion and gnarled beauty.

By Derek Taylor

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