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Monday, February 5, 2024

Peter Brötzmann/Paal Nilssen-Love - Chicken Shit Bingo (Trost, 2024)

By Martin Schray

As is so often the case when a great musician has passed away, new releases appear relatively quickly after his death. They are usually of rather mediocre quality (just think of the albums that came out after Jimi Hendrix’s death), but sometimes they are also exciting, which can be proved by some recently released Cecil Taylor recordings. Before his death in June, Peter Brötzmann had already published a great deal himself and one has rather wondered skeptically what new aspects further recordings could shed light on. But to my surprise one of the first posthumous releases, Chicken Shit Bingo with Paal Nilssen-Love, one of his favorite drummers in recent years does exactly that and shows both musicians from an unusual contemplative side.

The four albums the two have released so far have been live recordings, but in 2015 they took some time in Antwerp to make a studio recording. Brötzmann had bought a contra-alto clarinet and was obviously so enthusiastic about the sound of this instrument that he decided to play almost exclusively instruments of the clarinet family. Only a bass saxophone - sound-wise not far away from the clarinets - is used in a few pieces. For the session Nilssen-Love brought several Korean gongs with him, which he had also not used before. Given the choice of instruments, it’s no wonder that the timbres open up completely new spheres for the collaboration between the two - darker ones, more melancholic, delicate and fragile ones. Brötzmann, who has so often been compared to Albert Ayler, is more reminiscent of Jimmy Giuffre in a piece like “South of No Return“, for example. This is also due to the fact that he rarely uses the high registers, so fascinated does he seem to be with the low notes. It’s as if he plays them and then takes his time to listen to them fading away. His role models are also evident in his melodic writing: Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins. This is most evident at the beginning of “Smuddy Water“, a piece on which Brötzmann plays bass clarinet and initially explores the lower registers in a very consequent way. Then, as if from nowhere, he explodes, moving expressively into the higher registers of the instrument, only to return to the depths after a minute and a half. It’s like an echo from the old days, as if he wanted to make sure that he would have been capable to play like this as well.

Eventually, “Ant Eater Hornback Lizard“, the last piece, is an example of how well the interplay with Nilssen-Love works, even if it’s much more subtle than on their previous recordings. Here too, Brötzmann exhales into his instrument, nothing is left of the old fire breather of the early years. Nilssen-Love accompanies him even more restraint, using tambourines, hand drums and the low bass drum. At the end, the piece seems to disappear imperceptibly in a deep void.

Chicken Shit Bingo could be a lost soundtrack to a movie by Akira Kurosawa. And here’s the best news: a second volume of music from the same studio session will be released on vinyl in 2024, along with a CD of live recordings.

Chicken Shit Bingo is available on vinyl, as a CD and as a download.


David Cristol said...

The same year as this recording, I saw Brötzmann trio with Steve Swell and PNL, the jazz influences you mention were there as well as the clarinet focus and quieter playing at times - even a ballad, which made it different than previous concerts (with Full Blast for example). Enjoyed it tremendously. Looks like an album to listen to.