all you John Zorn completists! This is the only recording where
Peter Brotzmann, one of Europe's best free jazz saxophonists plays
with American saxophone avant-gardist, John Zorn. The thing is,
they are both here on clarinet.
who emerged in the mid-'60s, was self-taught and became one of
the most well known German free music performers. His seminal
works include Nipples (1969) and Balls (1970), both examples of
blistering white heat and both reissued on the Unheard Music Series.
late last year, Brotzmann Clarinet Project's Berlin Djungle (Unheard
Music Series) was recorded in 1984 for the Berlin Jazz Festival.
This was one year before Zorn's seminal The Big Gundown, which
made him a household name. But
Brotzmann's composition, What A Day, played in two 20-minute-plus
parts involved a band of 11 players, six of whom, including Brotzmann
and Zorn, would play clarinet.
The others are British jazzman Tony Coe (famous for his part in
playing Henry Mancini's signature Pink Panther theme), East German
Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, young French player Louis Sclavis and
New Yorker JD Parran. The band also has Cecil Taylor's rhythm
section, William Parker on bass (heard on many recent Thirsty
Ear/Blue Series releases) and drummer Tony Oxley. Two trombonists
include Hannes Bauer and Alan Tomlinson and finally, there is
the famed Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo (whom DJ Krush has
is just one reason this performance is interesting. The other
is that this is one of Brotzmann's more colourful and sophisticated
settings. The large band isn't there for firepower. They are there
to provide colours. You could call this Brotzmann's answer to
an ambient free jazz recording. Like Zeena Parkins' and Ikue Mori's
Phantom Orchard (2004), which visualises an environment through
sound, What A Day seems to be doing the same thing. But it isn't
dreamy or hallucinatory. Instead it is a clash of melody and rhythm.
The 11 members are literally playing with and against each other.
On Part One
of What A Day, a soft breathy airy tone is played (could this
be Brotzmann playing the Hungarian tarogato, a reed related to
the clarinet). The other clarinets start tumbling out of the woodwinds.
The discovery here is Louis Sclavis whose melodic bass clarinet
weaves in and out of the growing cacophony. Imagine if you will
a forest of squawking and screeching birds. A Berlin jungle of
clarinets indeed. Add that to Zorn's various mouthpieces and what
you get are zany duck calls, monkey chatter and harsh raspy timbres.
After a long burst of joyous noise from everyone, a quieter passage
featuring a melodic clarinet solo emerges (Could this be Coe,
known for his more melodic work?). Then a final wail where everyone
sneaks in a small solo wherever possible while Parker keeps the
rhythm on keel with his pulsating bass line.
you heard on Part One courtesy of the brass section with rhino
horns (pun intended) and trumpeting elephants are back in full
charge on Part Two. Now that the pattern is set, the band settles
in for alternating passages of fury where high horn notes show
bursting animal rage and lovely clarinet lines temper the near
uncontrollable angst. There is an interesting mid-section where
the players are blowing just to hear the sound of passing air.
It sounds like angry snorts. Suddenly, the whole wind section
takes off on a noisy flight leaving Parker alone fretting on his
bass. Finally, drummer Tony Oxley reasserts himself with a tribal
drum solo before the rest of the band joins him in restating the
The end in
this case wasn't a whimper but a big bang.