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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Musician of the Year 2012 (an addendum)

By Martin Schray

I guess it has been quite obvious by my reviews that my favorite musicians this year are Mats Gustafsson and Peter Brötzmann.

Mats Gustafsson is a phenomenon. Like Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Ken Vandermark and others he has released more than ten albums this year and all of them of stellar quality. It may seem that I am a bit generous with superlatives or that I am an uncritical fan but in the end let’s face facts: He has the ability to integrate interesting new musicians (and therefore elements) to his long-term collaborations Fire! (feat. Oren Ambarchi) and The Thing (feat. Barry Guy; and Neneh Cherry), in the first case my album of the year (far ahead of anything else: “In the Mouth a Hand”) because it combines kraut rock and free jazz in an unheard way, in the second case he gears down to more classical free jazz (“Metal!”) and makes an 1980s pop star return from oblivion (“The Cherry Thing”). He also recorded with an Ethiopian musician (Mesele Asmamav, on an instrument called krar) and the  result of an out-of-the-blue- 45-minute jam session in a hotel room in Addis Abeba  is one of the most surprising pieces of music I have heard this year (“Baro”; with Paal-Nilssen-Love on drums). Additionally, he is one of the few who can fascinate listeners with solo records on which he reveals a romantic side and a deep knowledge of history (“Bengt”, “Mats G plays Gullin”). If you think you get it about him, he releases stuff like “Play some fuckin’ Stooges” with Thurston Moore, an ideal crossover record between free jazz, alternative rock, punk attitude and new music. In the end you can see what a great musician he is when you listen to his trio with Raymond Strid and John Russell where he plays in a very intimate way (“Birds”) or in his mind-blowing duo with Colin Stetson (“Stones”). How does this man do it?

Have I mentioned that he is also part of Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet?

Peter Brötzmann is 71 years old and he keeps on touring and releasing stuff – it’s simply amazing. Although he is always interested in new collaborations he is mostly admired for his consequence. His tentet (+1) is the most fascinating larger ensemble in free jazz (only rivaled by Anthony Braxton’s band and Evan Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble) and the fact that he has broken it up after 14 years was one of the saddest news lately. “Walk, Sleep, Love” is a marvelous example for large group interaction, his duo with Jason Adasiewicz on vibes proves that his sound also works in a completely different context (“Going all Fancy”). Almost classic are his collaborations with trios (with John Edwards and Steve Noble on “The Worse the Better” and with Masahiko Satoh and Takeo Moriyama on “Yat”) and with drummers, this year he worked with Jörg Fischer for the first time (“Live in Wiesbaden”), another great album. Although I like him best when he lets the beast out (on “Snakelust” with Hairy Bones or on the first CD on “Trio Roma”) I discovered what an outstanding solo performer he is. My personal performance of the year was his concert at the Center for Jewish Studies under Heidelberg’s old quarter (the second CD of “Trio Roma” gives you an impression). Chapeau!