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The jazz press lives to pillory pariahs and crown princes – and princesses on rare occasions. In the US, these manufactured controversies had primarily commercial purposes and impacts; however, they had a specific cultural facet in Europe in the 1960s. As the post-WWII generation of European musicians was coming into their own, they were cast in these stereotypical roles not only to represent fissures between different jazz aesthetics, but within the larger cultural agenda of countering American hegemony. To this end, European folk music traditions were increasingly tapped; the modes dominating European music through the Middle Ages were reclaimed from the likes of Miles Davis and John Coltrane, while the DNA of blues, “I Got Rhythm” changes and other staples of American jazzcraft were reengineered, if not discarded.
Arguably, the country in which these processes were most potently charged by the mid-‘60s was the Federal Republic of Germany, routinely referred to in the US as West Germany. Despite West Germany’s formation in 1949, Allied occupation continued until May 1955, almost two months after the death of Charlie Parker; even then, the Armed Forces Network and The Voice of America gave the Amercentric jazz narrative official, if not imperial weight. The formation of a new, countervailing German jazz identity required a prince, a peer of the most innovative American modernists, who had held sway at the most prestigious American venues, and who had staked out an unmistakably European terrain for his contemporaries.
In 1967, Albert Mangelsdorff had been that prince for more than a decade. By the late 1950s, the trombonist had won national polls, represented West Germany in an international youth big band that played the ‘58 Newport Jazz Festival, and, with the Frankfurt All-Stars, advanced a cool, West Coast-inspired sound to the forefront of German jazz. Although he is lazily cited as extending the modernism of trombonists like J.J. Johnson, it is the influence of saxophonist Lee Konitz that best explains the slyly twisting serpentine lines that distinguished Mangelsdorff’s work. In 1962, Mangelsdorff co-led, if in name only, Animal Dance for Atlantic with Modern Jazz Quartet pianist John Lewis, then one of the most ardent African American champions of European jazz musicians – despite Mangelsdorff’s spirited playing, it is an album dominated by Lewis’ admittedly European influenced sensibility, a subtly layered reinforcement of the American hegemony critique.
Mangelsdorff recorded Tensions in 1963, the first of what can be heard as a triptych of recordings foundational to the embryonic project of establishing a European identity in jazz. Although his three-horn quintet with saxophonists Heinz Sauer and Günter Kronberg, bassist Günter Lenz, and drummer Ralf Hübner, was equally adept at hugging the hairpin turns of smart, complex charts and robustly improvising with minimal underpinning, the enduring marker laid down by the album was Mangelsdorff’s liner notes. Stipulating jazz to be an art form reflective of the artists’ times and environment, Mangelsdorff proclaimed that no one should expect European jazz musicians to play like their African American counterparts; additionally, he lamented that too few European musicians used jazz’s “liberty to express THEMselves, THEIR personality.”
It is debatable how much space Mangelsdorff put between his quintet and their American contemporaries with Tensions; not so with his next album, Now Jazz Ramwong. Set aside the delicious irony that the bulk of its substantial musical innovations are rooted in traditional Asian music, the direct result of a 1964 Goethe Institute-sponsored continent-wide tour – the use of Asian meters and scales moved the music beyond the overhang of American jazz. Mangelsdorff germinated a still-thriving strain of European jazz aesthetics with the one piece not rooted in Asian materials and methods. His refitting of the 13th Century German folksong, “Es Sungen Drei Engel,” is unflinching and strident, befitting a fighting song for driving back the Mongols, and concludes the album with incessant rhythmic drive and edgy polyphony. In less than eight minutes, Mangelsdorff posited European folk music to be the indicated, if not the necessary wellspring for what author and producer Joachim-Ernst Berendt coined as European jazz’s “emancipation” from its American sphere of influence. And Mangelsdorff accomplished this not with a manifesto; not with an entire album; but with a single cut.
Mangelsdorff fleshed out this thesis with Folk Mond & Flower Dream, his quintet’s ‘67 swan song. Spanning ballads and free improvisation-friendly forms, the album did not approach folk music with the mannered reserve of Third Stream-affiliated composer-improvisers like Jimmy Giuffre. Instead, as Mangelsdorff is quoted in producer Horst Lippman’s liner notes, the title piece was created with an affinity for street singers. Throughout the album, Mangelsdorff encased emotional churn and urgency in polished ensembles, an approach that soon spread throughout the continent, sparking European jazz’s coming of age. In interviews then and for years to come, Mangelsdorff consistently connected jazz with everyday struggles and protests against the status quo, positions to which his use of folk music lent firm support. However, he was plagued by marketing ploys like “Jazz – Made in Germany,” reviews that compared the music to advanced German automotive engineering, and corny publicity photos of the quintet in tuxedos and even horsing around Beatles-like in a pool, reinforcing his princely status.
A prince such as Mangelsdorff required a repugnant pariah, one whose music was the antithesis of the effortless virtuosity and the keen, sophisticated design sensibility at the core of the trombonist’s music. For this, the German jazz establishment found an irresistible target in the relatively little known Peter Brötzmann, who then represented the most extreme, intense iteration of free jazz. Although the saxophonist had been performing in West Germany and in Holland for several years, the saxophonist had only recently popped up on the national radar, primarily through two 1966 performances. The first was at the 10th German Jazz Festival Frankfurt; given the assault on conventions Brötzmann’s music represented, it is appropriate that his trio with bassist Peter Kowald and drummer Pierre Courbois performed on May Day. Among the other artists performing at the festival was pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, a member of trumpeter Manfred Schoof’s quintet. Seeing a possible triangulation between the Schoof unit’s envelope-pushing mix of knotty, hard-driving themes and New Thing-informed solos and Brötzmann’s template-smashing blunt force, Schlippenbach combined the two groups for a composition commissioned for the Berlin Jazz Festival that November.
Schlippenbach’s Globe Unity is now considered one of the most pivotal pieces in European jazz history; but, like Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps, it was initially scandalous, a Berlin newspaper characterizing the performance as “a pandemonium in which Peter Brötzmann played the role of Satan.” Rarely has an artist been as vilified as the saxophonist; most probably, none faced a televised tribunal like he did on the May ‘67 WDR broadcast, Free Jazz – Pop Jazz – incomprehensible or popular? The program is structured around a panel of experts convened by author Siegfried Schmidt-Joos, then music editor at Radio Bremen: they discuss the merits or lack thereof of free jazz, and question both Brötzmann and saxophonist Klaus Doldinger, whose groups also perform. The primary indictment against Brötzmann is the disqualifying absence of both “legitimate” instrumental technique and markers indicating a fluency in prior mainstream vernaculars. Some of the examiners, like journalist Felix Schmidt, methodically laid out the case against Brötzmann; others, like record producer Siegfried Loch, who began working with Doldinger earlier in the decade, simply dismissed Brötzmann – he shrugged off a previous performance he had attended as “amusing.” But, the most heated responses were by Doldinger, who smugly mocked Brötzmann’s playing, and bassist Peter Trunk, who abruptly broke into the exchange to seethe about the lack of technical proficiency in Brötzmann’s trio with bassist Peter Kowald and drummer Aldo Romano. Were it not for journalist Manfred Miller, who hung the jury with his low-key insistence of the general artistic merits of free jazz and the irrelevance of applying conventional jazz metrics to Brötzmann’s music – as well as his recognition of its emotional core and its real-time realization of form in the saxophonist’s music – Brötzmann would have been found guilty on all counts.
Throughout it all, Brötzmann calmly stuck to his story: That his music was not for everyone; that he could not explain why he played what he did; that he always knew what he wanted to play; that the study of the past 50 years of jazz was not necessary to achieve his goals. However, Brötzmann does not explicate his musical agenda to the panel’s satisfaction beyond generalities of self-expression, begging the question of what he strove for in his music. For this, musical antecedents – even Albert Ayler, whom Brötzmann first met in 1960 – only go so far. For a fuller understanding of his aesthetic, a consideration of Brötzmann’s visual art is essential. By 1963, Brötzmann had exhibited his paintings and assemblages in both West Germany and Holland, and had assisted Nam June Paik with his notorious first major exhibition, Exposition of Music, maintaining Paik’s electronically manipulated pianos and installations involving records and recording tape – presumably, Brötzmann was not responsible for the freshly slaughtered ox head that hung above the entrance to the show.
Arguably, Brötzmann was well on his way to becoming established in European avant-garde visual art by triangulating art brut, abstract expressionism, and the mixed media works of Alberto Burri and others. When they had a subject, his early paintings studied such banal objects as flyswatters, which occasionally bear a passing resemblance to early ‘50s portraits by Jean Dubuffet that liken the human form to a blood-bloated tick. Although they hung on walls and were not free standing, Brötzmann’s framed works employing scrap metal and other industrial refuse have a dark, stark sculptural quality devoid of the pop iconography of Robert Rauschenberg’s combines. Occasionally, Brötzmann incorporated platitudinous components like feathers in found object works; but, generally, his visual art is unwaveringly blunt. However, that bluntness is not an end in itself. Rather, it is how Brötzmann rendered form through process. This was Brötzmann’s approach to improvised music, as well.
If anything, Brötzmann had not fully weaponized his music by the time of the WDR broadcast. This was achieved on Machine Gun, a May 1968 octet recording that gathered several principals of the first wave of European free improvisers, including Antwerp-based pianist Fred Van Hove and Amsterdam-based drummer Han Bennink, with whom Brötzmann formed a trio that loomed large on the continental free music scene through the 1970s. Fueled by piano and twin basses and drums (rounding out the fivesome: Kowald and Buschi Niebergall; Sven-Åke Johansson) the jarring, concussive sound of Brötzmann’s three-tenor front line with Evan Parker and Willem Breuker (who occasionally switched to bass clarinet for bone-chilling effect) projected a counter to the ecstatic agenda of John Coltrane’s Ascension, issued merely 15 months prior to the making of Machine Gun. Instead of a paean to ecstatic transcendence, the tenors smashed contemporary cultural norms with pure fury, with Brötzmann famously quipping that he sought to “annihilate” the listener. In this regard, Brötzmann’s sensibility stands in sharp contrast to that of his African American contemporaries. Resonating with such touchstones of post-war German art and literature as Joseph Beuys’ art actions – Beuys infamously, unexpectedly axed a piano at the ‘63 Paik exhibit – and Oskar Matzerath’s piercing shriek, Machine Gun was part of a cultural tremor felt from London and Paris to Prague and Berlin during the spring of 1968.
One ideal emblematic of the seismic cultural changes afoot – one that was shared by Brötzmann and both European colleagues like Breuker, a co-founder of Amsterdam’s Instant Composers Pool, and Parker, a principle of the Musicians Co-op and Incus Records, as well as American counterparts – was musicians’ aspiration to and exercise of economic self-determination, the control of the means of production of performances and recordings. Brötzmann joined with Schlippenbach and others based in Cologne and Brötzmann’s hometown of Wuppertal to form the New Artists Guild in 1966, presenting concerts in unorthodox settings like an underground car park. He released both Machine Gun and its predecessor, For Adolph Sax (a ‘67 trio date with Kowald and Johansson) on his own BRÖ label. Although the counter-festival (now the world’s longest-running free music festival) was organized and produced by NAG-affiliated bassist Jost Gebers, it was Brötzmann who initiated the first Total Music Meeting in West Berlin in 1968 as a critical response to the emphasis on American music at the Berlin Jazz Days, which had catapulted the Berendt-produced festival to the top ranks of European jazz festivals in just four years. In short, Brötzmann was in the thick of changing in West Germany what Nat Hentoff called “the political economy of jazz.”
Some scholars see parallels between the formation of Total Music Meeting and the Charles Mingus-incited Newport Rebels Festival of 1960. Both were led by lightning rods; though Mingus may have been notorious for confrontational episodes, Brötzmann posed a greater potential menace. Repeatedly, Mingus’ rebellions – beginning with Debut Records, the label he co-founded with Max Roach in 1952 – were relatively short-lived, and were followed by stints with major labels for which significant portions of his titanic recorded legacy were made. Brötzmann and his NAG cohort were far more marginalized than their British colleagues, several of whom had dalliances with major labels and enjoyed support from influential allies in the press. Total Music Meeting was not underwritten by wealthy patrons like the Newport rebellion or, like the Juma Sultan-led New York Musicians Organization, sought affiliation with and funding from George Wein’s Newport Festival after it relocated in New York in the early ‘70s.
At some point, every grassroots movement has to formalize, if only for taxes and grant proposals. For Total Music Meeting and its sibling, the Free Music Workshop (begun at Easter 1969), this came in September ‘69 when Gebers founded Free Music Production, whose mandate was not only to produce concerts, but to issue recordings as well. This allowed Gebers to incrementally access public resources, securing modest subsidies and in-kind support like the use of the Berlin Academy of Arts by 1970. Until 1972, FMP was essentially the collaboration between Gebers and Brötzmann, which is reflected in the prominence of Schlippenbach’s Globe Unity Orchestra and groups led by Schoof and Brötzmann in the line-ups for the first two TMMs, as well as FMP’s first two albums: Schoof’s European Echoes, a free jazz tour de force for 16-piece ensemble, and Balls, the incendiary debut of Brötzmann/Van Hove/Bennink. There were several notable musicians not generally associated with the European free music scene that performed in the first TMMs such as John McLaughlin, who, prior to the guitarist’s “discovery” by Miles Davis, played in ‘68 with multi-instrumentalist Günter Hampel’s group. However, one name stands out in the line-up for the 1970 TMM: Albert Mangelsdorff.
The trombonist performed with what was billed, presumably for contractual reasons, as Schlippenbach’s Living Music, since the same orchestra performed as Globe Unity Orchestra the night before as part of the Jazz Days (The Living Music was the title of a compelling sextet album the pianist had recorded in ‘69). However, these concerts were not Mangelsdorff’s first with the orchestra, as he had performed with GUO as early as the ‘67 Donaueschingen festival, one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious. This history needs context on two counts: the evolution of Globe Unity from a composition to an improvising orchestra; and the totality of Mangelsdorff’s activities during this period. In terms of the latter, Mangelsdorff participated in various projects: ZOKOMA, a quintet co-led with guitarist Attila Zollar and Lee Konitz that emphasized subtle, sophisticated twists on mainstream compositional forms and improvisational procedures; a steady stream of all-star dates, including all-German ensembles and trombone summits; and a reconvening of the Now Jazz Ramwong unit, sans Günter Kronberg. Free improvisation was, at best, an occasional pursuit for Mangelsdorff.
In 1967, “Globe Unity” still referenced the composition premiered the year before; and it was the composition that was commissioned by the festival and SWR, the regional radio service. At a time when post-serial composers were empowering musicians to make fundamental decisions shaping performances, “Globe Unity ‘67” was a bold, but not incompatible addition to the festival’s long legacy. The Donaueschingen festival had championed Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern as early as 1921; Olivier Messiaen, Karheinz Stockhausen and Bernd Alois Zimmermann (Schlippenbach’s teacher, a possible factor leading to the commission) in the ‘50s; and György Ligeti, Heinz Hollinger and Krzysztof Penderecki earlier in the ‘60s. Regardless of its relationship to jazz, “Globe Unity ‘67” utilized the type of unorthodox notational devices then far more in use in post-serial composition than in jazz: the mixing of standard markings for pitch and duration with graphic indicators of their relationships within a section of the orchestra; accompanied by prompts like “molto dim” and “accelerando,” sparse short hash marks (identified as “single notes”) accumulate across a page of staff paper to suggest a coalescing mass of sound; long sweeping curves marked “glissandi” and “Bögen” (bend) slice through intersecting circles. 50 years later, “Globe Unity ‘67” is one of the more consequential compositions the festival has commissioned.
At both the Donaueschingen and Berlin festivals, Mangelsdorff was a validating presence, someone whose instrumental excellence was recognized by classical music buffs and whose jazz bona fides were undisputed. Mangelsdorff also had another gig at the Berlin festival, performing composer George Russell’s “Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature,” the first of several program-length works that explicated the genius of the composer’s Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonality. By ‘70, Russell had lived in Scandinavia for more than five years, leading ensembles that included founding fathers of what is now called Nordic Jazz – saxophonist Jan Garbarek, guitarist Terje Rypdal and drummer Jon Christensen – who would perform on the ‘69 Oslo concert recording. So did Schoof. Russell’s septet at Berlin had an all-German front line of Schoof, Mangelsdorff and tenor saxophonist Gerd Dudek, a member of the cornetist’s mid-’60s quintet. Given the complexities of Russell’s charts and their requirements for modal improvisation, this was no festival pick-up gig, a rehearsal-free JATP-like blowing session, but a piece that, presumably, needed to be polished over at least two rehearsal sessions.
This begs the question of which gig Mangelsdorff signed onto first. Presumably, he committed to both months out. Like “Electronic Sonata,” “Globe Unity ‘70” required rehearsals, which required the festival to schedule Russell’s performance two days before Schlippenbach’s. While Schlippenbach characterized “Globe Unity ‘70” has being “determined more by aleatorics and by semantic information for the players” than the procedures carried over from the first version of the piece to “Globe Unity ‘67,” the new iteration entailed decrypting Schlippenbach’s carefully drafted graphic information, a series of dotted circles in and around which various instruments are placed, the piano being accompanied by a drawn open hand. Again, the new music-informed moorings of “Globe Unity ‘70” separated Schlippenbach’s music from generic free jazz. Given Donaueschingen’s prestige and the cover of performing with Russell as well as Schlippenbach, Mangelsdorff’s princely status could not questioned; however, if there was anything that would prompt the likes of Brötzmann’s WDR panel to denounce the trombonist as a pariah, it would be playing with Brötzmann/Van Hove/Bennink at the stronghold of the heretics, Total Music Meeting.
Because of the notoriety of the saxophonist and the drummer, Brötzmann/Van Hove/Bennink were and remain frequently stereotyped, even by their supporters, as a free jazz juggernaut who laid waste to anything or anyone in its path. At full throttle, the melding of Brötzmann’s bellows and screams, Van Hove’s clusters and Bennink’s Mach-speed drumming had a singular concussive impact – Balls proved this conclusively.However, the ferocity of their first album is arguably more of a culmination of ‘60s European free jazz than a marker of what was to come. By 1971, European emancipation had entered a new phase, to which the trio would substantially contribute in unlikely ways, given the earth they had scorched to date. Having already differentiated their approach to free jazz from the Americans’, the new phase entailed severing any connection to even free jazz. Particularly in West Germany, this phase was shaped by two stark rhetorical constructs introduced by Peter Kowald, who later regretted how they were disfigured by the press: the figurative “kill the fathers” initially referenced jazz’s African American forbearers, though trombonist/composer Vinko Globakar would also apply the idea to European composers; and “kapputspielphase” – usually translated as “broken playing phase,” even though some Germans translate “kapputspiel” with the more kinetic “playing until it is broken” or “playing until it breaks” – validated discontinuity and disintegration.
Scholars like Mike Heffley and Ekkehard Jost approximately date the onset of this second phase concurrent with recordings like Machine Gun. Clearly, the second phase’s political underpinnings had hardened by ‘68, a year renowned for socio-political upheavals throughout Europe and the US. Yet, the initial push-back to American jazz hegemony of West Germans like Brötzmann, Schlippenbach and Schoof had then not moved beyond the repurposing of free jazz as resolutely into kapputspielas London-based ensembles like Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Originally inspired by Ornette Coleman in the mid-’60s, SME had abandoned any trace of jazz idioms and procedures by the time they performed at the first TMM; instead, their improvisations were the accumulation of small, seemingly unconnected sounds. Whereas the West Germans created in bold strokes, the English improvisers focused on the granular. Additionally, disruption was a basic tool of Amsterdam’s Instant Composers Pool, co-founded by Breuker, Bennink and pianist Misha Mengelberg; once an improvisation had direction and forward momentum, Bennink and Mengelberg, in particular, would quickly throw a wrench into the works with either incongruent materials or Fluxus-informed actions. The West Germans were earnest by comparison.
Without taking anything away from the saxophonist and the drummer, the prominence of Brötzmann/Van Hove/Bennink in the kapputspielphase is due, in significant measure, to the Belgian pianist. This may be partly due to Van Hove being several years older than Brötzmann and Bennink. Shortly after commencing classical piano study as a boy in post-war Antwerp, Van Hove discovered jazz in the early ‘50s and developed a lasting affinity for pianist Errol Garner, whose playing had an orchestral sweep that mitigated the stylistic divides between stride, swing and bebop – although Garner’s mannerisms are nowhere to be found in Van Hove’s, the two share an adept use of tremolo. Like another radical first-generation European improviser – London-based guitarist Derek Bailey – much of Van Hove’s early professional experience was in dance bands, whose corny stock-in-trade idioms would occasionally crop up in the kapputspielphase. Playing bebop and, eventually in the early ‘60s, music inspired by Coleman, Coltrane et al remained largely avocational. Van Hove only made the commitment to play primarily free jazz just prior to meeting Brötzmann in the summer of 1965 at the Comblain-la-Tour Jazz Festival in Belgium, a now-resonant occasion in that Coltrane’s headlining performance turned out to be his last in Europe.
In his first recordings with Brötzmann, indications of Van Hove’s embryonic “inward music” are limited to short, relatively subdued solo passages. There are also very few clues on the first major work to be issued under Van Hove’s name, the Requiem for Che Guevara, which was recorded at the 1968 Berlin festival; tucked between scored passages akin to Charlie Haden’s much better-known “Song for Che” (first recorded the next year with the bassist’s Liberation Music Orchestra), are heated improvisations, including a Van Hove organ solo stuffed with madcap single-note runs and wheezy, sputtering clusters. It is only with his 1972 solo piano recordings for the Antwerp-based Vogel label – which begin to detail the finely calibrated touch and use of pedals that would inspire second-generation improvising pianists like Georg Graewe – that Van Hove’s divergence from the “outward” music of albums like Machine Gun and Balls is firmly established.
The disruptiveness that was a core value of the principals of Instant Composers Pool was another force pushing Brötzmann/Van Hove/Bennink towards the kapputspielphase. Few drummers have Bennink’s jaw-dropping virtuosity – his one-handed press rolls making the case in point – but none then had his penchant for atomizing coalescing energies in a free improvisation, be by abruptly stopping or by any number of broad theatrics: dumping a box of junk on stage and using the contents and even the stage deck for drumming; walking about the stage, cracking inside jokes or mocking the powers that be; picking up sundry instruments from the string, brass and reed families, on which he possessed various degrees of proficiency. Kevin Whitehead’s characterization of Bennink’s decades of duo concerts with fellow chess player Mengelberg is also generally applicable to the drummer’s approach with Brötzmann and Van Hove: “exercises in blocking each other’s moves and throwing each other’s rhythms. Like chess itself, stylized warfare.”
The role, if any, that the ‘70 TMM meeting between Brötzmann/Van Hove/Bennink and Mangelsdorff may have played in regards to either the development of Van Hove’s inward music or the onset of the kapputspielphase, generally, will remain a mystery, as it was not recorded (which is nothing less than astonishing, given Gebers’ thorough, decades-long documentation of his festivals and concerts). However, by August 1971, when the foursome convened at Berlin’s Quartier Latin for two nights, the pivot away from explosive free jazz was already underway, as evidenced by the three resulting FMP albums: Elements; Couscouss de la Mauresque; and The End. When the LPs were collected on CD as Live in Berlin ‘71, annotator Wolfgang Burde quoted at length a report from Tagesspiegal, a Berlin newspaper that touched upon the changes. “The secret of this jazz ensemble lies in its ability to articulate in a highly differentiated manner,” it proclaimed. Bennink “not only showered the listeners with orgiastic outbursts on the drums, he additionally masters a wide-reaching percussion technique reminiscent of chamber music,” supplementing his percussion arsenal with mouth organ, garden hose, and balafon, among other instruments from around the world. Brötzmann “is not satisfied, like the majority of his Free Jazz peers, with massive sound explosions and outpourings bordering on the limits of physical exertion, he also sovereignly masters a repertoire of formula at the opposite end of the scale: that of the delicate and the barely audible.” What they “can articulate in terms of feeling and nuances of expression, their ability to creatively bring together a world of sound, is not only sheer presence, it is also genial in its quick-wittedness of attitude.”
Recordings are like high-speed photographs, capturing fast, short-lived phenomena that would otherwise go unnoticed. Just like Eadweard Muybridge’s photo that proved that all four legs of a horse are momentarily airborne as it gallops, the August ‘71 recordings find the four improvisers vaulting into this emergent phase of European improvised music from their respective vantages. When heard in the chronological order afforded by their current aggregation on CD, there are few generalities that can be gleaned beyond a recurring abruptness with which performances change direction. Additionally, since each of the seven pieces is credited to a single composer, it is unclear as to what materials or concepts are predetermined, whether any of these disruptions are compositionally mandated or simply the taking of improvisational liberties. The only safe analytical conclusion is that each piece ends quite differently than they begin, and that each takes a unique route to their respective end points. Five of the pieces clock in between 15 and 22 minutes, and each are comprised of several discrete elements (including Brötzmann’s aptly titled “Elements”).
The four pieces recorded on the first night of the Free Music Market are representative of the rough-edged sequencing employed throughout the collection. Van Hove’s “Florence Nightingale” commences the proceedings with a high-octane free jazz passage: surprisingly, it is the tenor saxophonist that plays what approximates a theme (imagine how Albert Ayler would announce post time at Churchill Downs), while Mangelsdorff gurgles and brays at the margins. After Brötzmann’s colleagues eventually peel away, his ordinarily abrasive altissimo textures remain in the foreground, with his stark rhythms gaining buoyancy when Bennink plays slit drums, ricocheting bright, woody higher pitches off lower pitched thuds. (Brötzmann would reiterate these patterns in the succeeding “Elements,” but with Mangelsdorff adeptly supplying rhythmic counterpoint with multiphonics.) Bennink’s command of non-Western instruments was at least partially honed by working with World Music progenitor, trumpeter Don Cherry (with whom he had just recorded two months prior to the Quartier Latin stand). Subsequently, this passage of “Florence Nightingale” can be heard within a contemporary World Jazz context, one traceable to Now Jazz Ramwong.
The passage of “Florence Nightingale” that exemplifies Van Hove’s inward aesthetic – and the onset of a new phase in European improvised music – is a later passage for piano and drums that fits neither into the full-bore free jazz-inspired intensity of the West Germans, the “playing apart” approach favored by London-based improvisers like Bailey, nor the subversive trickster impulses of Bennink, Mengelberg and other Dutch improvisers. Placidity prevails in this passage, even though Bennink drums busily at low volume. There is a murmuring quality to Van Hove’s playing, making one lean in as if that would reveal greater detail; additionally, the pianist seems determined not to gather materials into a discernable momentum. Brötzmann/Van Hove/Bennink usually used sudden drops in intensity as little more than opportunities to reset for another onslaught, but here it is used as an end in itself. To call Van Hove’s playing impressionistic in this passage would overstate his intent, in that impressionism’s traditional agenda was to loftily affect the listener – none of that here. Instead, there is a quiet stasis of non-commitment, making it one of the more radical passages recorded under Brötzmann/Van Hove/Bennink’s name.
“What was then the decisive musical experience in 1971 that gradually but tangibly transformed Free Jazz, a movement that had only just developed an identity?,” Burde asked lawyerly from his early-’90s vantage, having a ready answer: “Van Hove’s nine-minute jazz process ‘Antwarrepe.’” Burde’s assessment emphasizes the Tibetan tinged solemnity of the horns’ ethereal, softly intoned multiphonics, augmented by the surreal whipping wind-like sound of a twirled hose and a very light sprinkling of single piano notes. But, the piece is also noteworthy for what ensues when, after five minutes, Bennink can no longer restrain himself from blowing the ambiance to smithereens with his kit; instead of a sustained barrage, there is an ebb and flow between heated, broad strokes and more subtle details that spills into the set-ending “Albert’s.” By the end of the ‘70s, Mangelsdorff would be renowned for unaccompanied solo recordings like the 1976 MPS album Tromboneliness for the approach previewed on “Albert’s” – a use of multiphonics approximating Tuvan throat singing, graceful quavers through microtones, and a unique balancing of gravity and airiness. The back and forth between Mangelsdorff’s solos, quartet passages that prompted Burde to reference Third World percussion ensemble traditions, and a rousing finale, conclude a performance signaling not only that European free improvisation had come into its own, but that the walls overshadowing the 1967 WDR broadcast were coming down.