Brötzmann – Swell – Nilssen-Love Debut Album Available Now
By Kato Bookbird
Trombonist Steve Swell faces up to what might be one of the toughest challenges in contemporary music on Krakow Nights: how to hold your own against the twin forces of nature represented by German reed iconoclast Peter Brötzmann and Norwegian drum dynamo Paal Nilssen-Love. Already a self-contained unit, the pair has toured and recorded frequently as a duet. With such powerful entities it can be hard to avoid being cast in a supportive role. Though Swell’s talents in such exposed situations have been honed through collaborations with the likes of reedplayers Daniel Carter and Sabir Mateen and trumpeter Roy Campbell, few are as uncompromising as present company.
Recorded in Klub Alchemia, one of Poland’s premier jazz venues, the concert captured here occurred early on during a 2015 European tour. Although Swell and Brötzmann work predominantly in broad primary hued smears and splatters, the former also delves deep into his bag of tricks. His lines dip and dive as he mixes heraldic fanfares with tightly nuanced bent pitches and muted yelps and whinnies. But it’s not all thunder and lightning. Swell seizes the opportunity to explore timbral possibilities at the start of “Full Spectrum Response” in consort with Nilssen-Love’s tone-color play on untethered cymbals. Furthermore, Brötzmann paraphrases his elegiac “Master of a Small House” theme at various points during the 37-minute cut, interpolating melodic fragments among his emotion-drenched stratospheric wailing.
Shifts between the permutations inherent in the trio occur naturally throughout the four extended tracks. Evidence that awareness continues even in the midst of the maelstrom is furnished by the staccato sequence of spat-out notes in “Oneiric Memories”, which prompts a machine gun fusillade of clipped cymbal strikes. Further examples of collective endeavor come in a passage of joint riffing in “Scotopia”, followed by the two horns phrasing as one in an impromptu hymnal toward the conclusion of the same piece. A series of interwoven triumphal blasts bring “Road Zipper” to a close, eliciting well-deserved applause for what constitutes one of Brötzmann’s most successful recent releases.