It’s not often we’re treated to a pairing of two such accomplished, internationally admired musicians.
Peter Brötzmann has a back catalogue that’s bigger than most people’s record collection – he’s a part of well over 100 titles. Besides a long list of solo discs, he’s recorded with Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Krzysztof Penderecki, Bill Laswell, Anthony Braxton, Sonny Sharrock, John Zorn and a big, big band of others. His 1968 octet recording, Machine Gun, is held up as among the most important titles in the history of free jazz.
Fred Lonberg-Holm, born just six years before Machine Gun, studied with the aforementioned Braxton (in addition to Morton Feldman). His list of collaborators includes God Is My Co-Pilot, Jim O’Rourke and Wilco.
Together, these two heavyweights have produced a distinctively abrasive and entertaining album. Ouroboros takes its name from the symbol for infinity: the snake swallowing its own tail.
Brötzmann performs on reeds, Lonberg-Holm on strings and electronics. The session took place seven years ago, at Loft Köln in January 2011.
Prepare yourself for a powerful 41 minutes. In keeping with its title, the album opens with “The Circle.” Lonberg-Holm’s strings come creaking to life. It’s entirely unclear if his instrument is being bowed or sawed. Could be both. Two minutes in, Brötzmann announces his presence.
Their rasping graininess is not a new statement in jazz. But they do it with such skill and imagination that the effect is thrilling.
“The Figure Eight” comes next with a kinder, gentler opening. It’s all relative of course – don’t mistake this for a ballad – but the piece’s openness allows for performances that reach still further.
“The Spiral” follows, dropping us right back down into the middle of downtown road rage. And then “The Fusion of Opposites,” which we can only assume is a reference to something other than the relationship between Brötzmann and Lonberg-Holm.
What makes this record such a delight is the synergy between these two remarkable talents. They speak the same language, even if following along requires a dictionary.