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Peter Brötzmann and Han Bennink: Schwarzwaldfahrt

Peter Brötzmann and Han Bennink: Schwarzwaldfahrt

Release Date:2006

By Michael Crumsho | Posted 2/8/2006

Instead of hiding from the elements in the winter of 1977, German free-jazz firebrands Peter Brötzmann and Han Bennink met them head on. Sequestered in the Deutschland’s Black Forest, the duo spent a week recording in and with the great outdoors—not an easy task. As Brötzmann states in his liner notes, “I had clarinets and saxophones, but it was much too cold to get them really working.” Their adventure became the FMP album Schwarzwaldfahrt, now remastered and reissued with a bonus disc of outtakes as part of Atavistic’s Unheard Music Series.

Known more for their manic gunfire, here the duo’s 20 unnamed tracks come across surprisingly muted. We can blame the frigid temperatures or the rudimentary recording equipment for that, but also the fact that Bennink brought no drums with him. Rendered skinless, he instead relied on a few horns, some strings, an odd cymbal or two, and a couple of toys that he used when not banging on the surrounding trees and stones.

Brötzmann leans way back in the cut here, and his faint horn lines mingle with bird song, getting lost among the foliage. He duets with rivers, blowing hard, the resulting gurgles forming a nice contrast to Bennink’s bedrock clickity-clack. Ultimately more intriguing than essential, Schwarzwaldfahrt is a nice sidebar to the duo’s more well-known blowouts. It also presents a nifty extrapolation of the basic tenets of improvisation as an anything-goes, kitchen-sink, life-meets-art ethos.

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