Peter Brötzmann Tentet

Marz Combo: Live in Wuppertal

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German saxophone behemoth Peter Brotzmann had always had great success with mid-size ensembles, from his protean Machine Gun octet in 1968 to the Chicago Tentet of the late '90s. His Marz Combo seems to have been a one-shot venture that only scratched the surface of its potential. An all-star cast to be sure, the band had a bit of a rockish tinge with his son Caspar and Nicky Skopelitis aboard on guitars (the latter a veteran of countless Bill Laswell productions) and Golden Palominos founder Anton Fier on drums. But, as in Last Exit, that rock energy is harnessed in the service of a greater strength -- inspired free improvisation on rough-hewn structures. The music begins quietly enough with a moody dialogue between Brotzmann on bass clarinet and bassist William Parker, but this is not a group that was going to remain docile for long. Inevitably, matters soon reach a blistering intensity, the leader's loose compositional sketch barely containing the musicians. The brief "Part 2" appears to have been intended as a respite from the onslaught but it doesn't hold and the band surges into the final section with guns ablaze. Somewhat humorously, there's a brief moment where Kondo's electronically enhanced trumpet in tandem with the guitars evokes Miles Davis from his Agharta period. But overall, the Marz Combo is about no-holds-barred, soul-baring improvisation of the type long championed by Brotzmann, and, by and large, it succeeds often enough to make one wish that the group had been longer lived. Recommended.

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