Peter Brotzmann Octet | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Peter Brotzmann Octet 

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In 1968 German saxophonist Peter Brštzmann led an octet through a recording session that took the energy of Albert Ayler and jacked it up into pure sonic violence, with none of Ayler's soulful undertones. Nearly three decades later the aptly titled Machine Gun (FMP) has retained every bit of its shocking intensity, from its all-acoustic brutality--breath as a weapon--to its uncompromising textural gambits. While the other saxophonists on the recording, Evan Parker and Willem Breuker, went on to develop their own richly distinctive sounds, for many years Brštzmann remained something of a jazz terrorist. His improvised music was almost always loud, acerbic, and ominous, a fierce display of power. In the last decade, however, he has developed as well. It would be wrong to say he's mellowed with age, although a new tenderness has crept into some of his current work, but he has managed to express his ferocity in different ways. While certain passages may be quiet, they're streaked with an almost desperate ache. On The Dried Rat-Dog (Okka Disk), his gorgeous 1995 duet recording with percussionist Hamid Drake, Brštzmann may draw from a wide range of moods and colors, but all of them are sharp and well articulated. Following last week's duo performance with Drake, Brštzmann heads up another octet, this one with a host of fine Chicago musicians--saxophonists Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams, percussionists Drake and Michael Zerang, bassist Kent Kessler, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, and trombonist Jeb Bishop. This is a rare opportunity to hear the saxophonist interact with such a large group live; it should be fascinating to hear how his maturation will manifest itself as he revisits his youth. Sunday, 6 PM, Unity Temple, 875 Lake, Oak Park; 708-383-8873. Wednesday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Andrew Lutzen.

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