A monument of post-free solo reeds playing and a stunning item in Peter Brötzmann's discography, 14 Love Poems is arguably the German saxophonist and clarinetist's strongest, most compelling solo statement. Recorded and first released by FMP in 1984, this LP showcases the full scope of the man's art and presents it in a form much more enticing than what you'd expect. Inspired in part by a poetry booklet by Kenneth Patchen (from which it takes its title), this album focuses on expression and emotion instead of virility or power (two terms often used to describe Brötzmann's playing). If 14 Love Poems can be dubbed "the softer side of Peter Brötzmann," it is by no mean a collection of watered-down solos. On the contrary, one finds all the energy, ferociousness, and angst the man is rightfully known for, but his palette of feelings is stretched out to also include tenderness, elevation, and beatitude. The opening "NR. 1" (no titles, just numbers) is in fact a tempered, delicate rendition of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" on baritone sax. All the other pieces are freely improvised. They are all short (nothing over five and a half minutes), and the track list emphasizes mood swings and instrument swapping. In the course of the original album's 50 minutes, Brötzmann plays baritone; tenor and alto saxes; A, E flat, and bass clarinets; and tarogato. The range of instruments, emotions, and techniques (from straightforward melody to sound-breath techniques, circular breathing, split tones, etc.) produces a very rich, diverse, and ultimately endearing album. In 2004, FMP reissued 14 Love Poems on CD, adding ten bonus tracks (hence the new title, 14 Love Poems Plus 10 More) for an extra half hour of music. These pieces were recorded during the original sessions, August 21-23, 1984. Despite the fact that they don't add to the album (in terms of sound palette or techniques), they are just as lovely and striking as the pieces originally released -- not leftovers at all. This album is essential to understand the solo albums later recorded by John Butcher, Alessandro Bosetti, and the like. Highly recommended.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by François Couture