Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet

Images / Signs

BY Kevin HaineyPublished Dec 1, 2004

The best free jazz is timeless. By blowing the music out past all points of reference, it becomes free from any confining sounds or ideas and exists to be heard out on some plane where Albert Ayler’s ’60s freak-outs could’ve happened on the same afternoon as Peter Brötzmann’s current ones. These simultaneously recorded and released albums are as riveting today as they will be 40 years from now, and just as relevant and exciting as Ayler’s recordings still are. And since Brötzmann’s often cited Ayler as his key influence on the sax, this is more than just a casual comparison. Comprising two sessions, one in a Chicago studio and the other in a Swedish konserthus, Images and Signs are nearly identical. Both were recorded by Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet, a group featuring such free-jazz heavyweights as Mats Gustafsson (on straight sax), Joe McPhee (trumpet), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Ken Vandermark (sax) and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), both open with a lengthier dose of studio material before breaking out the more energetic live recordings, and both are top-notch collections. However, Signs is definitely the wilder, freer release of the two; its 17-minute title track catches the band in full chaotic swing. Images is overruled by Vandermark’s 37-minute hard bop composition, "All Things Being Equal,” giving the album a more traditional feel. Of the two, Signs is more riveting, but Images still has plenty freedom to spare, whether you need it now or 20 years from now.

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