Borah Bergman

Eight by Three

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Pianist Borah Bergman's name is listed first, but this recording is actually a free improvisation session where all three participants share equal weight. While Anthony Braxton and Peter Brötzmann have been active and extremely influential since the mid-'60s in the same general circle, this was their first recording together in 20 years. Both have their idiosyncratic styles and -- in truth -- egos to match, so a head-to-head meeting was likely to yield fascinating results. Throw in Bergman, whose single-mindedness is second to none, and one might expect either incendiary fireworks or three stubborn musicians at loggerheads. Unhappily, there is far more of the latter than the former. Bergman's reputation lies largely with his remarkable left-hand dexterity (or should one say "sinisterity"?). For all the astonishingly independent playing his limbs achieve, his musicality often leaves something to be desired and, in improv situations, he sometimes seems reluctant to listen to his bandmates, wandering off into his own ruminations without regard to the input of others. Unfortunately, that attitude is all too often on display here. While Braxton and Brötzmann make valiant stabs at true communication (though, it must be said, neither of these giants sounds at the top of his creative game), Bergman generally seems both oblivious to their contributions and unable to propose viable alternatives. As a result, the music has a tendency toward both bluster and indecision. Intriguing as this collaboration might have appeared at first blush, even die-hard collectors of the work of the two saxophonists might hesitate before adding this largely failed experiment to their collections.

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