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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Johannes Bauer / Peter Brötzmann ‎– Blue City (Trost, 2017) ****

I’m not sure I’m worthy to write a review about anything with the late Johannes Bauer's playing. I’m not a seasoned reviewer, nor do I have the experience and language skills like many of the reviewers here on FJB. But I’ll give it a try anyway. I’d like all of you to first head over to Martin Schray’s well written obituary following the link above. As far as Brötzmann goes, the German reedist giant has been on and around the scene of improvised music for 55+ years and counting. I can highly recommend his own website with discography but also Peter Stubley’s extensive website which contains a whole lot for the Brötzmann rookie to read and indulge in.

Listening to this lost, and luckily found, duo live performance with Bauer and reedist Peter Brötzmann I’m immediately struck by the intimacy of this recording which really gave me confidence to sit down and put pen to paper. This album features reedist Brötzmann and trombonist Bauer at the Blue City in Osaka, Japan, in 1997. I’m not sure anyone has taken credit for recording this performance, but it’s been done in a very nice way.

Brötzmann, playing tenor and alto sax, b-flat clarinet and tarogato on this album, together with Bauer gets straight to the point with the first close to half an hour track, opening the album. Brötzmann’s right there throughout this first track, and clearly is in great shape. There’s a constant stream of raw notes flowing right at me, and then at around the 8 minute mark we get to hear Bauer on his own. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a trombone sounding like this. Extended techniques, breathing, moaning as the improvised section build up.

The way Bauer and Brötzmann collaborates on this album is really moving. There’s a mutual respect and obvious camaraderie. The duo format allows me to pay close attention to small details and nuances. I’m not used to sax-trombone duo and perhaps that’s why I like this album so much. It’s clear that they both are enjoying their performance most when allowing themselves to let it all out there with extended improvised bursts of notes. There’s this extreme sense of having so much to say as they push through the twenty-five-minute mark without any sign of wanting to stop. Finally, the relaxed and satisfying feeling when ‘being done’ so to say, is obvious when this first song is over. I personally need to stop for a few minutes before continuing to listen.

‘Blue City’ has Bauer starting off alone looking for a way in, or a way out. Glasses clinking has me thinking that Bauer and Brötzmann are standing in the middle of an eating and drinking audience. I don’t know that of course, but it’s fun to think they would be right there with tables and chairs and people eating steak, or sushi. Brötzmann joins in to add flavor and suddenly they both explode. But just briefly. It’s soon back to the searching and more introspective sound again.

'Poppy Cock’ is a peaceful improvisation. This is a very delicate piece of music. Bauer has a very sensitive tone throughout the track. Not at all edgy and raw as opposed to the first track of this album. It’s lovely to hear the trombone alone for an extended improvised part. It’s not something I’m used to hearing, it catches my interest to go looking for more solo or duo trombone albums of the improvised kind. Anyway, Brötzmann and Bauer joins forces to close the song.

In ‘Heard and Seen’ there’s a more pushy and aggressive improvised feeling heard. Slurs and long runs of notes that sometimes follows each other, sometimes travels off into different directions. Bauer works around a theme and Brötzmann travels in and out and around. Eventually Brötzmann goes off on his own and delivers a true “Brötzmanian” solo. Bauer joins back in and it’s over.

The last track on this album is ‘Hot Mess’ in which extended techniques, grunts and screeches creates…a hot mess. What a nice way to end a highly recommended album, that could’ve easily never seen the light of day.

Here’s a search page for Johannes Bauer


MJG said...

A very nice review, Gustav, thank you. It brings the music to life for this reader at least.

I have very fond memories of witnessing Bauer's contributions to Brotzmann's Tentet on a couple of occasions. I'm intrigued by how they sound as a duo so this may have to go on the ever-lengthening "to purchase" pile

Mr Saxobeat said...

@MJG, Thank you for the kind words. I was surprised when hearing how ‘peeled off’ and naked yet ‘right there’ the musical experience became with this duo setting. A very rewarding experience I must say. Brötzmann of course always gives a visceral feeling to everything he does but I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard a trombone doing the same before.
At least it gives me an idea of what else might be out there...