Friday, August 10, 2007
Joe McPhee, Peter Brötzmann, Kent Kessler, Michael Zerang - Guts (Okka Disk, 2007) ***½
On November 6, 2006, sound technician Malachi Ritscher committed suicide by plublicly setting fire to himself on the street in Chicago in protest of the Iraq war and "the mayhem and turmoil caused by my country". This CD is a tribute to him by four musicians who knew him well. The music was recorded a year earlier by Ritscher himself, and the music is suited to commemorate his act, and the guts he showed. After an introduction by Zerang's drums, all hell breaks loose, as Brötzmann and McPhee simultaneously start blowing their lungs out, with Kessler's bass building a powerful drone on in the background, and not surprisingly, especially Brötzmann's sound is absolutely fierce, yet when drum and bass stop somewhere in the middle of the first piece, the German slows down to be joined by McPhee and both play some deeply emotional lamenting sounds, finding each other beautifully and softly, echoing each other, playing simultaneously or in counterpoint, then picking up with a basic bluesy kind of rif, signal for the rhythm section to start kicking up the engine again.
The second piece starts with a sound exploration led by Kessler's arco, with the others playing fine, thin and abrupt lines, then long wailing monotonous lines, building up musical tension, Zerang laying on the accents of an increasingly menacing sound, which bursts open with the pocket trumpet and the tarogato screeching, coming to rest after about 15 minutes, for a slow duet between the two horns, McPhee the bluesy melodious one, Brötzmann enraged and dissonant, followed by a great rhythmic duet of drums and bass, giving the time for the horns to be changed into a battle between tenor and alto, which find peace together, leading into a slow and beautifully melodious unisono ending. And as usual, their music expresses emotions of anger, frustration, rage and suprise even, but also sadness and respect in a very direct way. If the musicians had said this music had been composed in memory of Malachi Ritscher, you could have believed it. But even then, it is a worthy tribute for the man.