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Friday, September 7, 2012

Brötzmann/Satoh/Moriyama - Yatagarasu (Not Two, 2012) ****½

By Tom Burris

Peter Brötzmann is one of those musicians who people tend to discuss whenever the conversation turns to whether or not free jazz’s signature of unbridled passionate intensity is natural or forced.  (“C’mon, nobody feels anything that intensely for 90 minutes straight!”)  Personally, I think Brötzmann negates the question completely.  The man is a force of nature.  Yeah, his reputation says he’s a screamer, Europe’s Ayler, whatever – but this is simply focusing on his patented knockout punch.  Admittedly, he can deliver that punch for 20 minutes straight but his approach is not singular by any means, as this disc (and his entire discography) proves.  Yatagarasu is his trio with Takeo Moriyama on drums & Masahiko Satoh on piano; and this disc was recorded in front of a very lucky audience in Poland last year.

The first track, “Yatagarasu,” (named for a Japanese Crow God) opens with a bang.  Long vibrato melodic fragments bellow out of Brotzmann’s sax, supported freely by Moriyama while Satoh stabs wild chords on the piano.  (Imagine Rashied Ali and Alice Coltrane playing with Ayler.)  The trio reaches a feverish intensity shortly after the seven minute mark that doesn’t really pull back for three minutes, which – not surprisingly – turns out to be a mere warm-up for this band. This track also features a drum solo by Moriyama about 17 minutes in, before Brötzmann appears for some slow(er) and spacious duo action. The track builds to another amazing crescendo before crashing to a screeching halt.

Satoh and Brötzmann begin “Icy Spears” by playing in the upper registers of their respective instruments. Satoh plays from the post-Cecil school, utilizing plenty of staccato punch and space.  In the second section of this track, Brotzmann works up a smoky Ben Webster impression while Satoh finds a softer way of dicing up the keys and Moriyama works the brushes; but by the 12:30 mark they’re reaching another peak of fiery intensity.  Then Satoh gets a spot to himself, sounding not unlike Matthew Shipp in the way that his playing is purposeful and precise but still open to any and all possibilities. Brötzmann enters playing long, pretty notes, prompting Satoh to bang out quick, sharp, discordant runs in the upper register of the piano. Naturally, Brötzmann's response is to squeal harder and higher, throwing Satoh to the floor to bang on the lower keys.

“Autumn Drizzle” opens with Satoh playing what sounds like “Cecil Chopsticks” and then it gets solid. Moriyama jumps in and matches the piano groove with a loony cumbia beat before both begin to approximate the rhythm more freely. By the time Brötzmann arrives it’s turned into a rent party gone to hell with people heaving furniture out of windows, breaking lamps, and shooting the T.V.

A (figurative) foghorn blows a one-note drone at the beginning of “Frozen Whistle” and the drone stays intact throughout via the left hand of Masahiko Satoh. Satoh’s right hand holds down the upper register, leaving the middle to Brötzmann's tarogato and its vaguely Middle Eastern melody. It’s an enigmatic and beautiful short meditative piece, a knockout punch every bit as potent as the one Brötzmann's reputation rests on.

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