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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Peter Brötzmann & Peeter Uuskyla: Dead and Useless (Omlott, 2014) ***½

Peter Brötzman and Peeter Uuskyla’s Dead and Useless – recorded at Bohus Sound Recording in Sweden on September 9, 2006 – is described as a new LP-Master by Uuskyla of the fourth track from their previous album: Born Broke (Atavistic, 2008) for release on vinyl (also available on CD which rather annoyingly, includes the side break – surely easy enough to edit out for the digital transfer). Along with Peter Friis Nielsen (electric bass) they formed the trio that released four albums recorded between 1999 and 2003.

In his review of Born Broke in 2008, Stef wrote that although not a Brötzmann fan, this recording might win him over because “the two musicians seem to be led on by the same feelings of love and rage, subtlety and power, sensitivity and brutality“.  But compared to other Brötzmann duos there’s less rage and brutality. The first part is a prime example how he’s been processing classic jazz melodies, and using a core vocabulary deployed in different contexts with various partners and line-ups. Brötzmann is not the notorious destroyer of melodies; he just uses them in his own, particular way.

Dead and Useless Part 1 starts with Brötzmann on tenor and Uuskyla on cymbals in a very reluctant, almost tender fashion, which is untypical as he usually hits the ground running with his familiar call to arms. Unlike many live performances however, studio recordings have often been used to explore his more reflective and intimate side, here encouraged by Uuskyla’s soft patterned and melodic drumming. 

Soon a classic Brötzmann melody crystalizes – usually referred to as the Master of a Small House theme: a five-tone-motif which he first used on Tales Out of Time (hatOLOGY, 2004). It has its roots in Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman – one of the great blues dirges that’s haunted Brötzmann for some time – possibly even remnants of Sentimental Journey  (Brötz and Doris Day: now that would be a way to celebrate her ninetieth birthday)! He modulates and plays with it, drops and picks it up again. Once more, he shows how much the blues pervades his playing and that for all his avant garde accolades, his music is often less close to what is conventionally called “free jazz” than it is to icons like Ben Webster or Lester Young.

Peeter Uuskyla is the perfect partner for this approach: one can’t imagine such music with Paal Nilssen-Love or Han Bennink. Uuskyla makes subtle and low-key contributions using complex rhythmic patterns over which Brötzmann can soar. His rhythms and almost straight patterns, his roiling tom toms and especially his staccato snare rolls entwined with cymbal crashes provide a sort of deconstructed swing. It’s a well-balanced give and take, with both artists pushing and guiding each other.

The instrumental balance does not seem to differ in any significant way from the original recording (it’s a re-master, not a re-mix) and with three additional tracks, Born Broke is better value. Probably one for vinyl junkies and completists only

Available from Instantjazz