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Friday, November 10, 2023

Peter Brötzmann / Sabu Toyozumi - Triangle - Live at OHM, 1987 (NoBusiness, 2023)

By Martin Schray

The 1980s were a time of searching for Peter Brötzmann. After his legendary trio with Fred Van Hove and Han Bennink broke up in the mid 1970s, he tried new players (his promising trio with Harry Miller and Louis Moholo came to an abrupt end due to Miller’s unfortunate death in a car crash) and new large and small formations. What should remain a constant in his work were sax/drum duos - pure rhythm and sound. He started with his long-term partner Han Bennink in 1977 (Schwarzwaldfahrt and Ein halber Hund kann nicht pinkeln), then he released an album with Andrew Cyrille (Andrew Cyrille Meets Brötzmann In Berlin) in 1983. In the same year he turned to the Japanese scene (with which he was to remain connected for the rest of his life) and was playing with Sabu Toyozumi, at that time quite an established drummer in Japanese free jazz.

The attraction that Brötzmann obviously felt for this cultural clash quickly becomes clear on the recordings from 1987 that are presented here on NoBusiness’s newest gem. Toyozumi contrasts the quite typical Brötzmann style with dark tom sounds and military rhythms on the snare. His intoxicatingly thunderous rhythms are characterized by a powerful and rousing sound in which the player’s entire body seems to be put to use; one literally senses his roots in Japanese drumming traditions. The result is that Brötzmann’s playing is very lean in contrast to the force from the European duets of the 1970s. Still, he keeps over-blowing the notes, but only to intersperse almost tenderly twisted garlands shortly thereafter, which Toyozumi keeps trying to chop up, as in the opener “Spiral Column“. Brötzmann’s tenor winds its way out of these attacks here and counters Toyozumi’s rhythms directly. Anyone who believed at the time that no one could cope with Brötzmann’s aggressive playing as well as the great Dutchman, whose innate sense of rhythm is a match for the Wuppertal saxophonist’s rough tones at any tempo and volume, was taught better here. On this recording, too, one can hear how Brötzmann had to constantly reassure himself in the face of a new challenge from a new drummer, whose background is completely different from that of a Han Bennink, a Sven-Åke Johansson, a Louis Moholo or a Ronald Shannon Jackson. This can be seen especially in the pieces on which Brötzmann plays tenor, for example in “Yuh-ru Yuru“. Here, the trial of strength between Toyozumi and him results in a recourse to a few set pieces that he used again and again in his late work. In this track it’s the “Master of a Small House“ theme.

In the more restrained clarinet pieces, however, Brötzmann already shows his softer side and proves that he wanted both: the shattering of classical harmonic structures and the ballad, the blues, the graceful and the sincerely painful. From this tension emerged his tone, his voice, his sound, as the German critic Felix Klopotek said in his obituary of him. Especially in the interplay with Sabu Toyozumi this is clearly brought out.

Triangle - Live at OHM, 1987 is available as a CD and as a download.

You can buy and listen to the album here.