Monday, December 14, 2009
Joe McPhee, Peter Brötzmann, Ken Kessler, Michael Zerang - The Damage Is Done (Not Two, 2009) ****
But the hurricane can become a light breeze too. And that is to a certain extent largely to be ascribed to both McPhee and Kessler, who add more nuance and subtlety, melodic elaboration and lyricism, but don't get mistaken about Brötzmann either: the slow and very beautiful melody that he develops in the quiet middle part of the thirty-minute title song is entirely his, almost sounding like McPhee. It is a real pleasure how the German manages to find the common ground, but don't worry either, it doesn't take long before he blows his lungs out again, so much so, that it almost becomes an entertainment by itself. The second track, "Alchemia Souls", is more free improv, a sound dialogue between the four musicians, and the title refers to the Alchemia Club, in Krakow, Poland were the performance took place on March 16, 2008.
The second disc is even better, with titles referring to the descent into the Greek underworld. Soft and poetic flowing passages alternate with gut-wrenching sound blasts and the most excruciating emotional explorations - after all: you are in hell, yet it all fits, it has coherence and purpose, indeed like Acheron, the river of pain, that flows through Hades. Anger, human misery, dissatisfaction with the world, yes. But also musical beauty and great artistic delivery, very balanced in a very varied performance.The only downside of the performance is that Brötzmann's sax comes across much louder than McPhee's, but whether that's a question of sound mixing or because of sheer decibels produced, remains unsolved.