boom swing    bmc-trio

thomas borgmann - reeds
wilber morris - bass
denis charles -drums

  • Nasty & Sweet, part I  [33:34]
  • Nastys & Sweet, part II  [25:43]
  • Boom Swing*  [9:40]
  • La Linea*  [3:59]
  • recorded live during Music Unlimited Festival, Wels (A), November 1997
  • except * recorded live at Context Studios, NYC, September 15th, 1996
  • konnex-records kcd 5082

listen: nasty & sweet, part I

listen: nasty & sweet, part II


Nathanial's Nasty As He Wanna Be,

Volume III: Racial Harmony in a Not-So-Harmonious Music

by Nathanial Friedman, The Philadelphia Inquirer 1998


Most accounts of the history of avant-garde jazz are shot through with a not-so-subtle racial subtext.
American free jazz is presented as ecstatic, unbridled, and effusive, holding the same "crazy nigger music" appeal that drew mainstream (white) America to jazz in the first place.
European free music, by contrast, is dismissed as staid, academic, and hopelessly tied to the self-conscious ferment of modernism.
American musicians were at best praised for trying to recapture the anarchic spirit of early jazz, at worst accused of not knowing how to play their instruments; Europeans found a ready audience for their "new sounds," were able to organize extensively, and eventually received government money.
Ironically, it was the Europeans who were most interested in tumult-for-its-own-sake and quasi-dadaist considerations of pure sound.
American free jazz players-the "crazy upstart niggers"-were concerned with expanding and rarefying jazz's emotional and technical possibilities, just as bop had done twenty years before.

Whether or not this popular version of the story is true, it certainly captures something of the polarization of the two scenes.
American free jazz was hopelessly bound up in the (narcissistic) metaphysical politics of the sixties, while the first wave of European improvisers were ivory-tower artists.
Although the Americans' frequent trips to Europe resulted in more than a few one-shot collaborations, it wasn't until the late seventies that the two scenes began to stake out common ground.
Essentially, this meant that the cerebral Americans collaborated with the cerebral Europeans, and that the more torrential European players began to infuse their proto-punk blow-ups with a certain degree of poetry.

Twenty years after this cross-pollination began, the best working group in free music is a trio comprised of two black guys and a German-a combination which hammers home the "universal harmony" and "complete communion" rhetoric associated with American free jazz.
You'll find their albums filed under the name of the German saxophonist, Thomas Borgmann (racism, racism. . . ).
But the backbone of the group is its rock-solid drums and bass team.
On two recent recordings, free jazz relic Denis Charles is behind the kit; after Charles' death earlier this year, Reggie Nicholson-the only living drummer who can play this music with as much taste and grace as Charles or the late Steve McCall both did-inherited the drum chair.
The de facto leader of the group is bassist Wilbur Morris, who has been around since the NYC loft scene of the late seventies.

Boom Swing, just released on Konnex, documents one (virtual) set of a 1997 concert in Austria. Yes, the group's interactions are staggeringly sensitive; yes, there is a lot of ass-kicking, even a few windows of transcendence.
But most of all, the music grooves like hell. Borgmann is one of the few European (hell, make that white) musicians smart enough to not try and copy black stylists.
His terse, shuddering lines sometimes ride the rhythmic currents, sometimes bear down against it.
But he very wisely defers to Morris and Charles when it comes to determining the feel of a piece.
On tenor, he has a breathy sound that recalls Lester Young at his most aggressive. His sopranio playing is all split-tones and askance lacerations, late Coltrane with a bad hangover.
But again, all noisiness aside, Borgmann pulls off some beautiful, highly narrative stuff.
Morris is probably the music's best living bassist.
Unlike any number of free jazz bassists (William Parker, for one), Morris understands how to simultaneously propel a band and bandy with a horn on the melodic front lines. His tone is harsh, sometimes thin and bony.
But his presence is nothing short of commanding. Whether walking insistently, pounding out globular notes in the lowest register, or emitting a screechy flurry of bowed harmonics, Morris drives the band.
His solos are nothing short of heart-stopping, with their consummate blend of technical daring-do, suspense, and good old-fashioned pathos.

If Borgmann is the mouth of the group and Morris the legs, Charles is the heartbeat. Charles' rollicking style owes a heavy debt to the Caribbean bands he played in as a teen; note his predilection for heavy, earthy figures on the toms, or his ability to sustain a flickering groove with a few mysteriously placed cymbal splashes.
Charles also was musical enough to hit one drum and make the world end, as evidenced by his stately solos spots.
Ultimately, this trio's music is about this kind of musicality. The music grooves, the solos are cogent beyond belief, and the emotional range far wider than most jazz being made today.
The initial shock of this genre has long worn off; maybe it's about time people realize that it offers a far more potent and expressive listening experience than 98% of the slavishly boppish jazz that major labels continue to spoon-feed to aesthetes and cultural snobs of all stripes.

Stalker Songs, released last spring on CIMP, finds Euro-improv legend Peter Brotzmann sitting in with the trio for two formidable, half-hour-long pieces.
The group's alchemy is by no means dilluted by the studio setting; in fact, the session has a far greater sense of purpose than their loose-limbed live albums.
Perhaps this also has something to do with Brotzmann's deathly earnest contribution. Although Brotzmann has certainly played louder in the past, he rarely has sounded as forceful as he does here. In the process, he very nearly steamrolls the others, and almost always steals the show.
But Morris and Charles complement the uber-tenor's playing beautifully, underscoring the fact that the emotional content of Brotzmann's playing is nearly as variegated as the ungodly sounds he manages to wring out of his horn. Borgmann makes an admirable showing, but functions more often than not as respite from Brotzmann's gut-pulping expositions.
Buy Stalker Songs for proof that Europeans have as much soul as Black folks, pick up Boom Swing for a chance to see just why so many people swear by avant-garde jazz.




While everything on this disc is worth discussing, its large suite, "Nastysweet Parts I & II," which covers over half the CD, is the place to fix your focus on. "Nastysweeet" is a gargantuan piece of group improvisation in which the entirety of Western music is called into question and found wanting.
The stalwart, visionary rhythm section of the late Denis Charles and bassist Wilber Morris accompanies saxophonist Thomas Borgmann, who uses tenor, soprano, and sopranino horns here.

Morris, who leads in ominously, plays single-note octaves and whole tones, re-tuning as he plays. Borgmann joins him sparingly, drifting in cautiously, playing in between those notes and around them with the bass at the center.
Charles is heard from in a sudden crash of cymbals and bass drum before easing his way in with fragments centered around Morris.

It is at this moment that Borgmann chooses to introduce the melody, steeped in blues and modalism and something else, a certain tonal inquiry that asks deep questions of both of them and never attempts to answer them -- at least to any kind of satisfaction.

As the piece takes off it becomes a no-holds-barred, three-sided argument for freedom and from consonance, an assent to dissonance -- not for its own sake, but for stripping away the historical layers that made it dissonant in the first place.

This is language music: it tells stories, it erects enormous harmonic temples that crash without a moment's notice, it breaks intervals in its teeth and boils them down into a squawking soup that pours forth in ribbons of pure sound.
It's almost impossible to listen to the other two cuts here because these are so dramatic and full of emotion they leave the listener exhausted. But that's a small complaint.
~ All Music Guide



borgmann - morris - charles: boom swing

Wer hier wen in erektive Höhen treibt und in meditative Gefilde geleitet, sei dahingestellt, ist auch erst mal egal. Denn der frei improvisierte Jazz lebt von emotionshaltigen Aggregatzuständen, die aus reifem interaktiven Spiel resultieren.

Und mit diesem Trio dürfen wir echten Meistern ihres Metiers lauschen. Von hochenergetischen ungezügelten Kollektivimprovisationen bis hin zu feinsten Klangauslotungen zelebrieren sie eine ausgesprochen organisch entwickelte und vor Ideen nur so sprühende Musik, die mit archaischen Blues-Extraktionen, eruptiven FreeJazz-Statements im Geist der 60er und rhythmischen Nuggets afrikanischer und lateinamerikanischer Natur auf stilistisch perfekten Background verweist.

Das Spiel des Berliner Saxophonisten THOMAS BORGMANN (RUF DER HEIMAT / PETER BRÖTZMANN) oszilliert im Verlauf der vier Stücke dieses Albums über unterschiedliche Evolutionszustände zwischen hymnischer Intensität, die streckenweise unwillkürlich an den Gestus eines JOHN COLTRANE oder PHAROAH SANDERS erinnert, und figurativer Spiritualität, wie sie viele Naturvölker auf ihren Blasinstrumenten zum Ausdruck bringen.

Der "junge Wilde" genießt schon seit längerem höchste Reputation in der New Yorker Szene. So schloß sich in '96 SONIC YOUTH-Gitarrist THURSTON MOORE seinem Tio mit BRÖTZMANN und BORAH BERGMANN an, und letzten September konnte er sich gar ein ganzes Wochenende lang in verschiedenen Formationen in der "Knitting Factory" präsentieren.
Die vorliegende Einspielung markiert zudem den Abschluß einer phantastischen Musikerkarriere. Ende März verstarb DENIS CHARLES während einer Tour-Pause des Trios.
Er spielte praktisch mit allen Größen der US-Szene (u. a. CECIL TAYLOR, ORNETTE COLEMAN, GIL EVANS, DON CHERRY) und galt als einer der nuanciertesten Drummer der freien Szene.
Ein Leben für den ungehinderten musikalischen Ausdruck der Seele.
Ein Erlebnis im Kontext dieses Trios.
~ joachym ettel @ intro-magazin



© thomas borgmann | impressum