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«Jazz in der Kammer Nr.71»

«Jazz in der Kammer Nr.71» documents the historic, first-ever concert of the legendary trio of German sax titan Peter Brötzmann (focusing here on alto and tenor saxes), Belgian Fred Van Hove (who passed away in January 2022) and Dutch drummer Han Bennink in East Germany on Nov. 4, 1974, at Deutsches Theater in Berlin’s Mitte district. These three musicians have been playing together as a trio since recording Brötzmann’s iconic albums «Machine Gun» in 1968 (BRÖ, 1968, reissued by FMP in 1972 and Cien Fuegos in 2018) and «Nipples» (Calig, 1969 reissued by Cien Fuegos, 2015).

The album is released by the Viennese label Trost which keeps documenting (with its sub-label Cien Fuegos) the work and legacy of Brötzmann as a musician, visual artist and co-founder of the FMP label (and please check the insightful book «Free Music Production, FMP: The Living Music», Wolke Vorlag, 2022, distributed by Trost). The concert was the 71st in the radio series Jazz in der Kammer of Radio GDR which documented jazz performances at Deutsches Theater between 1965 and 1990. German jazz journalist and critic Bert Noglik, who wrote many liner notes to FMP albums, wrote the liner note. Brötzmann produced the album and did the artwork, and Martin Siewert did the excellent mastering.

This eighty-minute recording captures the trio of Brötzmann, Van Hove and Bennink at its top form – passionate, intrepid, furious, super intense and totally free. There was nothing comparable at that time in European or American jazz. Or as Brötzmann puts it: «It was total freedom in the music, and it was the time for it». And Noglik comments on the importance of free jazz and free music in those days of East Germany and in the dreariness of Cold War Berlin. «Anger and dreams grew in the drab neon light, and the misfits, the outcasts, and the intrepid, from East and West, found common ground. Free jazz expressed it better than ideological pamphlets: a language that was invented spontaneously and made itself understood immediately, no detours».

Brötzmann, Van Hove, and Bennink set the air on fire. The inexhaustible energy of the trio was free from any and all structures of control and exhibited what Noglik calls «the aesthetic of the scream and the joy of wrecking» with a remarkable, uplifting spirit. The trio played with and against each other with no apparent plan, yet created a strong collective entity. This was one of the magnificent performances where anything can happen and all sounds flew organically and at the right time, even if they were a fleeting quote of a jazz ballad, Bennink’s theatrical mimicking of a second horn, swinging pattern, noisy eruptions, or just abstract improvisations. No antics or tricks, just three one-of-a-kind strong musical personalities playing as seriously as their lives. Few musicians – then and even now – can reach the climactic intensity and the complete freedom of the last pieces «Serieuze Serie» or «Involved».

This trio recorded its last album ten months later «Tschüs» (FMP, 1975, reissued by Cien Fuegos, 2011), but Brötzmann kept collaborating with the most inspiring Van Hove and Bennink throughout the years. Brötzmann and Van Hove most recent album «Front to Front» (Dropa Disc, 2019) was recorded at the Summer Bummer Festival in Antwerp in August 2019, and Brötzmann performed with Bennink in London’s Café Oto’s Brötzmann’s festival in September 2019. But, this performance still sounds fresh and relevant with its unstoppable fiery and invigorating, full-blast energy.

Eyal Hareuveni

 Peter Brötzmann (as, ts), Fred van Hove (p), Han Bennink (dr)

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