Solid & Spirit is the third duo recording of Peter Brötzmann (alto and tenor sax, B-flat clarinet, and tarogato) and Hamid Drake (dr, perc) - in 2004 there was a self-titled album on BRÖ records and in 1994 there was the seminal The Dried Rat Dog on Okka. Apart from that the two have collaborated in many line-ups, especially in Die Like A Dog (with William Parker and Toshinori Kondo), one of my all-time-favorite free jazz bands.
While Solo at Dobialab – the record reviewed yesterday - is a live recording (with all negative side effects), this album was recorded in a studio in New York City in April 2010. It consists of six free improvisations, all of them prime examples of intensity, inventiveness, passion, and authenticity, Brötzmann and Drake are simply a match made in heaven when we speak of co-operations between European and American improvisers, especially because Drake is very much interested in the sound of his drums (in this respect his style stands in the tradition of drummers like Sunny Murray).
The title track can be used as an example here, Brötzmann and Drake are almost dancing around each other and Drake’s drums are rather like a second solo instrument when he plays these dark African rhythms around Brötzmann’s almost elegiac sax lines (only at the end of the track they accelerate the pulse). Then again they turn this structure upside down in “Us Own Things” and “Strike and Fade”, the next tracks, with Brötzmann spitting out his typical fearsome (and sometimes overblown) sax chunks and Drake rather supporting him in a classical free jazz way here. In general the album is full of contrasts (Brötzmann often refers to himself as “a man full of contrasts”), there is even a real ballad, “Poppa-Stoppa”, which is the highlight of the album, because both musicians are very reluctant and tender in this piece, as if they do not want to destroy the very fragile structure of the track.
Throughout the whole album there is a spirituality that is much closer to Coltrane and Ayler than to Brötzmann’s blowing-to-pieces phase when he started in the late 1960s (he never liked the phrase anyway) and as well as in “Solo at Dobialab” there is a great awareness of his own works, for example when he decides to end “Us Own Things“ with the same 12-bar-blues scheme and melody as in “Dobia 1”. Apparently, around 2010 he seemed to have a crush on the “Master of a Small House” theme (it also comes up in “ADA Pat Thomas OTO”).
The pictures on the back of the record show the two musicians highly concentrated in action and after the last session, Drake obviously content and happy, and Brötzmann with his shirt drenched in sweat. It was hard work but every tone was worth the effort.
Solid & Spirit is available on double vinyl. It can be bought from instantjazz.com.