Peter Brotzmann, Jim O’Rourke + Keiji Haino – Two City Blues 2 (2015)

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Two City Blues 2 draws together three musicians of outstanding class: Keiji Haino is a Japanese vocalist and guitarist who has worked in a range of genres and with Derek Bailey, John Zorn and Fred Firth, to name just a few. Jim O’Rourke is a composer and guitarist who has made an impact on the U.S. improvisation scene. He has played with, amongst many others, Mats Gustaffson, Derek Bailey and Thurston Moore. Finally, Peter Brotzmann needs little introduction and remains one of the key players of improvisational music.

There are just two tracks listed on Two City Blues 2 (due January 22, 2015 via Trost), and they provide sections in which the themes are developed, stretched and thrown back and forth between the musicians. The first section, “Two City Blues,” starts off with recurrent themes, all deceptively calm. Each musician trials riffs and themes, largely set by the saxophone of Brotzmann before they merge and the piece develops. At times, the guitar sounds countrified and at others, metallic and eerie.

Over this, Peter Brotzmann instills order to some degree with repeated riffs and then, just when you get a little comfortable — about two minutes in — the voice of Haino screeches over the top of the instruments like a banshee. After a few wails and gut-wrenching, however the voice becomes as much part of the musical development as the instruments. Before long, all players are enmeshed in a bizarre interaction involving rapid thrumming on the guitar, manic overplaying by Brotzmann and occasional vocal interjection by Haino.

[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Sammy Stein sits down with the still-pioneering saxophonist Peter Brotzmann to discuss the free-form jazz movement’s beginnings – and its future.]

The middle section is largely led by Peter Brotzmann, soloing over the guitar and sometimes alone with ethereal echoes in the background. The use of the shamisen, a three-stringed Japanese instrument, and the Taragota both enrich the sounds — even as Haino’s voice acts as the backboard in many sections. There is a lovely talking section between sax and voice, as Peter Brotzmann creates his now-standard “pic-a-pic” voice, making the sax sound like Mr. Punch on a good day even as Haino continues interspersing vocals. By this time, the latter have developed into almost recognizable tunes. Then, of course, “Two City Blues” develops further and a maelstrom of sound is created using all instruments and a certain amount of electronic tweaking.

Part 2 is titled “One Fine Day,” and starts with a Peter Brotzmann solo interspersed with guitar. This develops into a free-for-all section, led by the sax and punctuated with Brotzmann’s characteristic long notes — which introduce a tag onto which the others hold and fly. Beautifully developed, this is short at just over six minutes but very, very sweet.

Along the way, Peter Brotzmann and friends prove that there is room for all kinds of music in this world. Two City Blues 2 is a good combination of musicians, and a CD which makes an intriguing listen.

Sammy Stein

Sammy Stein

The Something Else! webzine, an accredited Google News affiliate, has been featured in The New York Times and NPR.com's A Blog Supreme, while our writers have also been published by USA Today, Jazz.com and UltimateClassicRock.com, among others. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Sammy Stein
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