Tales out of Time

Hathut | All About Jazz | Jazz Review


Tales Out Of Time
By Glenn Astarita

Joe McPhee (sax/trumpets) and Peter Brotzmann (saxes) have crossed paths over the years while respectively signifying two icons of modern, free-jazz type idioms. Recorded in Chicago, this quartet signifies a sub-grouping of Brotzmann’s “Tentet.” It’s a wonderfully balanced program, for sure. No doubt, the synergy displayed by these mighty jazz warriors is often astonishing. Naturally, these folks provide a contrast of sorts as they distinguish themselves from the hordes of amateur, free-form improvisers masquerading as purveyors of invention.

Part of the wonder here, resides within the saxophonists’ attention to detail and compositional form. On the opener “Stone Poem No. 1,” thru track three titled, “Master of a Small House,” the soloists interconnect motifs via contrasting lines. Brotzmann’s brawny tenor sax choruses are shaded with oscillating vibrato techniques, while McPhee toggles between pocket cornet, trumpet and tenor sax. They even incorporate profoundly stated melodies into the mix, amid a sense of bravado and shifting movements. As a few tender and microtonal based moments evolve into intense explosions of cascading choruses and soul-searching endeavors. Simply stated, the ensemble takes the listener on an emotional roller-coaster ride, teeming with variable ebbs, flows and succinctly stated themes. The art of improvisation is elevated to soaring heights here, marked by the musicians’ clarity of intent and a spiritual impetus that cannot be underestimated. (Feverishly recommended)

Musicians: Peter Brotzmann (alto & tenor saxophones), Joe McPhee (tenor saxophone, pocket cornet & trumpet), Kent Kessler (double bass), Michael Zerang (drums & percussion)

All About Jazz

June 2004
Tales Out Of Time
By Mark Corroto

I always liked but never quite understood Neil Young’s lyric that went something like “…are you ready for the country, ‘cause it is time to go…” To call someone “country” is to say they are simple or at the very least not urbane. But I think Neil Young was speaking more of organics and getting back to authenticity, and genuineness. If my theory is correct, this disc by four members of Peter Brštzmann’s Chicago Tentet is indeed a country album.

All four of these musicians have been working together in the Tentet, a gigantic composed/free undertaking that comes at you like a summer blockbuster movie. Where the Tentet is all about sculpted surges of power, this quartet sets about to make a free/ballad record with more modest ambitions.

In their modesty of approach, the quartet has made something quite synergistically large. Brštzmann and Joe McPhee are both known for their powerful display and energy, and both occasionally get entangled in its trappings. Here they both acknowledge the dynamic but choose a less weighty interaction.

Chicago players Kent Kessler and Michael Zerang play a fine supporting role here. Kessler is adept at the heavy bottom plucking and the meditative bow. Zerang, for his part, contributes the track “Cymbalism” and some thoughtful hand-drumming on “Did You Still Love Me/Did I Ever?”

Highlights of this disc are a traditional piece, “Blessed Assurance,” with all its nods towards Brštzmann’s place as heir to Albert and Don Ayler’s band; “From Now Till Doomsday,” as an extended free meditation; and “In Anticipation Of The Next,” McPhee’s dedication to departed bassists Wilber Morris and Peter Kowald.

Quite patient in their approach, the quartet renders an amazing recording of music that announces this trip to the country.

Jazz Review

Tales Out of Time
By Lyn Horton

Although this Hat Hut Release has been on the market for awhile, and attention has been given to it, this quartet warrants more words to bring more attention to it. Brštzmann, McPhee, Kessler, and Zerang create a quartet of equal proportions of musicianship as it applies to potential for eventfulness.

How many times in the history of jazz, have attempts to define jazz been made, rejected by musicians themselves, who proceed to make music without definition, without seeming limitations, or borders within their sonorous conference. How many ways can musical sound be defined. That is the place where we have to start. Not necessarily with the scientific Hertzian viewpoint, but within context of the temporal, perhaps with the in-the-back-of-the-mind historical outlook, and most importantly, within the present tense circumstance.

With this quartet, it is made clear that improvisational music is a process of many levels of timbre, intensity, emotion, and wrought-ing up. McPhee (on the trumpet and pocket cornet as well as tenor sax) and Brštzmann (on alto and tenor) are often distinguishable due to the attack of their instruments, especially if you know their playing. The many unisons make your heart leap. The continuity of ostinatos is precious and indelible and most often provides a component of rhythmic repetition. Sometimes the delicacy of the horns can take you to a place to which you want to return frequently.

When Kessler on bass and Zerang on drums come in, they either aurally mollify the hard edge of the horns but also open the gates so that the abstractions from the horns can fly. The bass and drums act mostly as percussive elements rather than as rhythm keepers which drive the horns to unrelenting territory. The horns seem to come to many unified resolutions which is a gratifying conclusion for some of the pieces even though what seem to be the resolutions are not heavy but just float there in the aural air.

Several of the tracks are tributes to other people, musicians, who have passed on. The mix of authorship of composition and performance is surprising and quite wonderful. The poetry is gripping. You have to find it….because it only can be described in the music that it is.

We have to graduate beyond the science of analysis to appreciate the music we hear no matter how difficult it is to listen to in its moments of travel. Not all travel, not all journeys are smooth and easy. And some journeys simply end.