We’ve often extolled the stylings of free jazz pioneers like John Coltrane, Pharaoh Sanders, and Ornette Coleman—they’ve brought such chaos and madness into jazz and have put out some incredible albums in their day. However, we often forget that there’s an entire scene in Europe as well practicing free jazz and free improvisation. Peter Brötzmann is considered one of the kings of European Free Jazz, and Machine Gun is generally viewed as his magnum opus, where he and a couple of other people well-known in the EFJ world (such as Evan Parker) basically play noise music with jazz instruments.
Obviously that’s being a little crude in description. There’s more than just plain noise going on in Machine Gun, but it’s a huge element of the album. It’s worth warning now that this isn’t a great free jazz album to start with unless you’re used to stuff like Merzbow or are not bothered by aggressive playing. This isn’t to say it’s a bad album either, because it’s friggin’ awesome, but it’s not particularly friendly to neophytes. Brötzmann and his other two horn players make sounds comparable to wild African elephants on a stampede, and the production on Machine Gun only lends itself to accentuate the former stampede.
But at the end of the day this is a pinnacle in free jazz, and a great opportunity to dip one’s toe into a style of free jazz that perhaps isn’t as openly popular as American free jazz is.
Also, as a new feature to this podcast, we’ve decided to add recommended listening. If you happen to like the general vibe of a certain album we go over, we’ll list some releases that are within the same sonic area. Thanks for listening!
- Peter Brötzmann/John Edwards/Steve Noble—The Worse The Better
- John Butcher/Thomas Lehn/Matthew Shipp—Tangle
- Merzbow/Mats Gustafsson/Baláz Pándi/Thurston Moore—Cuts of Guilt, Cuts Deeper