Peter Brötzmann / Heather Leigh

Ears Are Filled with Wonder

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Ears Are Filled with Wonder marks the first time that these two improvisers played together as a duo. Heather Leigh was part of Peter Brötzmann's octet during the 2015 Alchemia Festival in Kraków. Though they both played many dates in various formations, this is the only one they played this way. At just under half-an-hour in length, this as-it-happened unfolding is inspired, full of twists and turns. Even during some of its most intense moments, it remains breathtakingly musical. Brötzmann opens this up on taragato, offering a passionate inquiry, nearly modal in its manner of using clipped lines and phrases. Leigh's pedal steel adds both space and flesh to his lines, extending them with her own language. When he moves to tenor saxophone, the pedal steel ups the ante with a series of imposing, ever insistent riffs. He meets them, increasing in fierceness and fury with smears and splatters of sound. She uses distortion in flying runs to engage his horn. Together they create an intuitive, empathic speech that offers not answers, but ellipses in a developmental musical tongue. There is a gorgeous section near the middle when Brötzmann solos, singing his trademark take on the blues. It is deep, romantic even wide open -- like the Kenneth Patchen poem the title is based on. Leigh answers first with just haunting fragments and shards, then erects an unaccompanied solo from glissando chords as the slide imposes ghost shapes on the strings; tones rise, fall, and disappear into one another. When Brötzmann engages the conversation again, he is on clarinet, reflective and lyrical. As Leigh outlines her own meditation on his utterances, she is stepping into her own terrain -- she is a speaking subject. In turn, he winds around her statements and the pair play between and inside each other's spaces, increasing in urgency in ever-widening spirals that blur all boundaries between them. Leigh finds the seam where silence hovers and signals via a three-note phrase that Brötzmann embraces. Silence builds the bridge between the musicians and eventually claims the center, bringing Ears Are Filled with Wonder to a close. As a recording, this is genuinely compelling stuff. It reveals the unit's uncanny intuition and ability to communicate it to one another and an audience. It is a welcome addition to their respective individual catalogs as well.

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