Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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(b 6 March 1941, Remscheid, Germany) Reeds, composer; a free player whose octet Machine Gun '68 has never been exceeded for its exciting, even frightening sonic assault in European or American jazz. Nearly all his albums were on FMP (Free Music Productions), the first two briefly on his own BRO label: trio For Adolph Sax '67 and Responsible For Jan Van Der Ven '68 with Evan Parker, percussionist Han Bennink and others, the latter renamed Machine Gun on FMP.

He made about a dozen albums in duo with Bennink, some under each name, Andrew Cyrille Meets Peter Brötzmann In Berlin '82, a duo Low Life with Bill Laswell on Celluloid, albums in every combination from solo to nonet totalling 35 or 40 altogether, sidemen including Albert Mangelsdorff, Misha Mengelberg, Willem Breuker, Louis Moholo, Alex von Schlippenbach, many more. Solo No Nothing '91 on FMP would be a good place to start for the uninitiated, beauty and atmosphere as well as passion, 16 tracks played on bass clarinet, E-flat clarinet, alto, tenor and bass saxophones, taragato and brötzophone. In Brötzmann's case 'free music' also means 'pure music': even listeners who want four beats to the bar would have to admit that his vision is precise, communicating directly and viscerally. His titles are a gas, too: the last track on No Nothing is called 'All Art Is Quite Useless', after Oscar Wilde. Evolving Blush Or Driving Original Sin '96 on Modern Music might be a bad place to start, duos with Haino Keiji on microphone using noises including feedback rather than words. On Chicago's exciting new Okka Disk label, The Dried Rat Dog was a duo with Hamid Drake, The 'Wels' Concert a trio recorded in Austria, adding Mahmoud Gania on guembri (a bass stringed instrument) and African vocals. Exhilaration '97 on Soul Note was a co-led trio with Borah Bergman on piano and drummer Andrew Cyrille. In 2001 saxophonist and former President Bill Clinton revealed himself to be a Brötzmann fan.

The Fat is Gone on Smalltown Superjazz with Paal Nilssen-Love and Mats Gustavsson and Born Broke on Atavistic with Peeter Uuskyla were both made in 2006; Chicago Tentet at Molde 2007 on Okka was recorded in Norway; One Night at Burmantofts on Bo'Weavil was made a decade earlier in Leeds with a smaller group including German drummer Willi Kellers, UK reedman Alan Wilkinson and bassist Simon H. Fell. The Complete Machine Gun Sessions (Deluxe Reissue + Bonus Tracks) was the European free jazz reissue of the decade, on Unheard Music Sessions, available from Atavistic.