In both his visual art and his music, Peter Brotzmann has waged an endless battle against the notions of perfection and control. Metal Landscape (1963) and Painting With Metal Foil (1962), two pieces of artwork reproduced in the catalog to his recent show “The Inexplicable Flyswatter,” have been accumulating rust and corrosion since Brotzmann signed off on them–four decades later, they’re still works in progress. His new album with Thomas Borgmann, William Parker, and Rashied Bakr, The Cooler Suite (Grob), underwent a similar process: its source is an unbalanced, overloaded soundboard cassette from a 1997 concert that sat around Borgmann’s apartment for five years, and the consequent dropouts and distortion actually amplify the music’s desperate energy. With his huge, coarse tone and urgent phrasing Brotzmann sounds like he could dominate any group using anything he plays, which includes saxophones, clarinets, and the tarogato, an eastern European reed instrument. But he’d rather be surprised than followed, so he selects strong players and gives them plenty of room–or rope. The 1973 LP Brotzmann/Van Hove/Bennink (recently reissued by Atavistic; it’s also known by its original catalog number, FMP 0130) is the sound of one such band hanging itself; Belgian pianist Fred Van Hove’s too-clever doodles and Dutch drummer Han Bennink’s whoops and hollers tip the action from broad comedy into unbridled chaos. When things go right, however, as on the recent double CD Never Too Late but Always Too Early (Eremite), Brotzmann’s democratic instincts pay off handsomely. Bassist Parker and drummer Hamid Drake move fluidly from Moroccan grooves to restrained, meterless counterpoint to swinging, in-the-pocket rhythms, inspiring a richly varied and impassioned performance from the leader. Drake has been bringing the best out of Brotzmann since their first appearance together over a decade ago at the long-defunct Southend Musicworks; playing traps, frame drums, or djembe, he encourages Brotzmann to explore his lyrical side but never lets the energy flag. Friday, December 19, 10 PM, 3030, 3030 W. Cortland; 773-862-3616.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Michael Jackson.