Famed German saxophonist and clarinetist Peter Brötzmann has had a long and storied career since he gave up his early involvement as a gallery artist in the Fluxus movement to take up a life in the world of free jazz. Early releases like 1968’s absolutely punishing Machine Gun are considered essential recordings within the genre. By the 1980s he was pushing the boundaries of jazz into even heavier, weirder places via his experimentations with the supergroup LAST EXIT (featuring Ronald Sharon, the late great Sonny Sharrock, and the always far-out Bill Laswell). He’s truly a living legend, and it’s great to hear that at 73 he’s still ripping away at the reeds with gleeful abandon on his latest release, Soulfood Available.
Soulfood Available is his second album as a trio with Englishmen John Edwards on double bass and Steve Noble on drums. It was recorded live in the summer of 2013 at the Ljubljana Jazz Festival in Slovenia. The bulk of the recording is the title track, a 43-minute freakout which brings us through alto and clarinet back to alto again while some truly impressive percussive blasts keep the whole thing together. This is followed up by two shorter encores; “Don’t Fly Away” is tense and slow-building, while “Nail Dogs by Ears” finishes things off with more of a droning, downbeat dirge.
All the rage and heightened ecstatic states of Brötzmann’s best work are present, and, as usual with free jazz musicians in general, he sounds his best when unbound by the confines of the studio. This live recording may be just one of over a hundred albums Brötzmann has appeared on, but as a document of a moment in time, it’s sublime. Soulfood Available ably does the job of all great live records: It makes you feel like you were there.
Soulfood Available is out now on Clean Feed Records.