Über-lunged German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann teamed up with American vanguard legend Joe McPhee (who plays alto, tenor, trumpet, and pocket cornet here), bassist Kent Kessler, and drummer Michael Zerang (four-tenths of the Tentet Brötzmann toured and recorded with in the late '90s) for a single day of exchanging tunes and improvising in June 2002. McPhee and Brötzmann are perfect foils for one another on the front line. They both have requisite force, but McPhee is also a chameleon's player; he understands what lies in the spaces and knows how to make the most of it. His own compositions here, which account for over half the album, stress the kind of joint front-line melodies and close harmonics that create inner space in a tune -- just check his two-part "Stone Poem" and his "Anticipation of the Next," dedicated to departed bassists Peter Kowald and Wilbur Morris, for evidence. Brötzmann offers some surprises here in his pieces as well, not the least of which is his reformulation of a hymn Thelonious Monk recorded shortly before his death, originally entitled "This Is My Story, This Is My Song." Titled "Blessed Assurance" here, it takes the hymn, moves through its changes twice, and extrapolates them through his solo and the band's collective improvisation. McPhee's trumpet is the perfect complement and the pair sound like Albert and Don Ayler swinging their chariots toward the heavenly gates. Likewise, the beautiful art-damaged composition "Pieces of Red, Green, and Blue" (supposedly written about a museum experience he and Brötzmann shared) offers killer honking saxophone phrases that are repeated, striated, warped, turned inside out and back on themselves, and finally exploded into intense and inspired group interplay. This is a fiery and yet accessible date that showcases many aspects of the two men not only as players, but as composers as well.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek