Ride Into The Blue Konnex KCD 5069
Borah Bergman/Thomas Borgmann/Peter Brötzmann
Borah Bergman - piano
Thomas Borgmann - sopranino and tenor saxophones
Peter Brötzmann - tarogato, alto saxophone
- Tomorrow is no question (07.40)
- Surfing the blues (18.59)
- Locus solus (03.19)
- The stonehouse (01.24)
- Stranger in the city (29.24)
- Two lines for Nik (07.35)
- Recorded in concert at Kulturhaus Peter Edel, Berlin, on 19 April 1995.
- Design (reproduced above) by Brötzmann.
CD Ride into the Blue
You already know by who is involved here that this plate is gonna be gone, don't ya? And you're right, but misjudging the proverbial blowhard free jazz mantra just a bit. There are six tunes here, supposedly four of them created on the spot, with one each by Borah Bergman and Thomas Borgmann.
But it feels as if everything here was rehearsed and piloted into the stratosphere -- and yes, that is a good thing. Hearing the titanium lungs of Peter Brötzmann playing a restrained and loping alto saxophone to Borgmann's shredding tenor and lilting sopranino is something akin to pure atonal joy.
When driven and underscored by the elliptical harmonic languages of pianist Bergman, the noise this trio makes becomes full of spaces and lush dynamics that make you rub your eyes and look at the record sleeve again.
One good listen to "Tomorrow Is No Question" should be enough to convince anybody that free jazz is more that gutting the horns and slashing the strings.
These spaces are majestic and haunting at once; they whisper in minor and diminished sixths and drop the entire family of demons down with shrill legato squawks and shrieks in the very next moment but, like a Hitchcock film, you know it's coming.
There are also moments of true exploration here, such as on "Surfing the Blues," when Bergman ushers an invitation for both horn players to engage in a lively session of overtonal interplay with his piano and with each other.
The tempos change and the dynamics shift more subtly because of the intensity of the piece. But the grandest thing here, and by far the most creative collectively, is the improvisation "Stranger in the City," which lasts for nearly half an hour.
No one has ever heard Brötzmann play with such alchemical liquidity and economy of lyrical language, no matter how frayed the piece gets in sections.
The tinge of silence is always present in Bergman's right hand, playing ghostly in the middle registers with elegance and restraint as Borgmann intones chromatically on the sopranino and then plays with it in the context of the feeling of strangeness and alienation.
It's breathtaking. What an album!
~ All Music Guide
What do you see when you look back? Not a thing. And when you look ahead? Even less. That's right. That's how it is. - Jakov Lind, "Journey through the Night"
Some schematic of linguistic permutations or just a simple tongue-twister: Bergman/Borgmann/Brötzmann. two German horns, so well-suited with similar tempestuous tempers and love of lingering melodies, though bringing to the table such different basic sound with Thomas Borgmann's slicker tone and Peter Brötzmann's timbre of tears (read: tearful or torn, either way).
Together, the two saxophonists sing soulful, sometimes lemonball-sour harmonies. American pianist Borah Bergman lays down rumbling, bubbling ostinati, building tension and storing power for moments that call on him to peal off burning or luminous lines.
He's well-matched with the roustabout romantic reedmen, given his prediliction for hearty melody and fervid harmony.
Bergman's been busy with saxes of late, working with greats like Evan Parker and Roscoe Mitchell.
But it's a relative rarity to hear Brötzmann with a pianist, these days.
He's worked pretty extensively with Alex Schlippenbach, as a part of Globe Unity Orchestra and with on his own projects like Alarm (FMP).
He's brought his giant sound to a couple of Cecil Taylor's projects, played with Misha Mengelberg's ICP Orchestra, in a one-off with Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink, occasional events with Ulrich Gumpert, Steve Beresford, and others, and for a brief time alongside Howard Riley in the London Jazz Composers Orchestra.
But Brötzmann hasn't had an ongoing relationship with a pianist since the breakup of his classic seventies trio with Fred van Hove.
That's part of what makes this new trio so exciting - Bergman and Brötzmann have obvious points of connection: energy, raw excitability, interest in chasing emotive statements to their radical extremes.
But what the two share, aside from sheer force and manic stamina, is also a (not too) secret softness.
Listen to their tender, delicate duet in the middle of "Stranger in the City" - here, the depth of the connection is clearly evident.
And while Borgmann may be new to some ears (including mine), his work in this context will probably convince listeners to seek out his other work with Ruf der Heimat (KCD 5067), and the upcoming record (KCD 5070) of an encounter between that group and Peter B.
Bergman provides the opening gesture on Ride Into The Blue: a jagged piano solo intro, then "Tomorrow Is No Question." At once, this is an oblique Ornette reference and statement of the here-and-now, live-for-the-moment quality that is Brötz's modus operandi.
After an explosive outburst, Bergman sets a slightly Eastern European tone with brooding piano harmonies reminiscent of the cimbalom (Hungarian hammered dulcimer).
The first of the record's two lengthy adventures, "Surfing the Blues" is a constant flow of unpredictable moves and new vistas.
Borah and Brötz commune on a minor scale (shared interest); Borgmann's sensitive tenor solo is brutally punctured by alarming, machine-gun blasts from his countryman; Bergman keeps it rolling along with strong rhythmic drive, pounding minor thirds, and the wicked Ray Charles riff on which they ride off into the blues.
From the corner, Brötzmann repeatedly whoops and hog-calls Borgmann: a Ming us among us? Endpoint finds a riffing Basie band run amok or blown apart. Apocalyptic blues? Is a blues possible after Armageddon?
Borgmann's sopranino is featured on "Locus Solus," its nice nasality in tandem with Brötz's alto.
Then the blocked portal of politeness (despite his reckless rep, Brötzmann is the perfect gentleman) terminates the tune (...no, it's your turn!).
Bergman's passionate quickie, "Stonehouse", is followed by "Stranger in the City," the disc's grandest narrative.
Here's a wide-eyed journey into the big town, maybe the story of a country bumpkin's first vist to the metropolis.
Dizzying, thrilling, fearful, overstimulating, rough, unforgiving; some Wenders-like mix of rapture and loneliness.
Forget rural metaphors of peaks-and-valleys, this terrain is skyscrapers-and-subways. Borgmann and Bergman lock together for combustible joint excursion, and in his (first of two) unaccompanied solo(s) the pianist really cuts a rug before the saxes rejoin.
In another panel, the multi-sectioned improvisation takes on Andalusian overtones, with Bergman the flamenco accompanist to the saxophonists' cante jondo.
Brötzmann blow torches his way into softer sports before the strange, Gregorian chant closing.
The final cut, "Two Lines for Nik (perhaps a blue note in memory of great South African saxist Nik Moyake?), is a sopranino/ tarogato sprint, with shared flutters and lightning piano continuo.
There's a roughness and coarseness to Ride Into The Blue - nothing vulgar, but an unfinished or unvarnished quality.
I think Brötzmann especially likes this aspect; he's given to crinkled paper, harsh surfaces, bent corners, and ripped edges.
For him, I imagine that such textures and forms are a mark of something genuinely human, a candid, sometimes awkward stab at real emotion.
In the heart of this all-too-human being, at least Bergman, Borgmann, and Brotzmann hit the mark.
Music to make you think about Jakov Lind's journey into the instantaneousness of history, blankness of night, the here-and-now, the fleeting moment. Look forward and back: not a thing and even less.
That's right. That's how it is.
- John Corbett, Chicago, September 1995