The dilemma: you have uncovered an excellent concert, but it has been recorded on a cheap analogue cassette. It is already four years old, and these musicians release more albums per year than you can count on one hand (sometimes two), but this particular quartet performed only once, and the performance is truly phenomenal. Do you release it or not? The label Grob chose to release it. So hi-fi buffs and improv fans who sneer at gut-ripping blowouts, please move along, because The Cooler Suite is a mean and dirty slab of free jazz. Recorded on January 21, 1997, at The Cooler in New York City, this concert is allegedly the only time Thomas Borgmann, Peter Brötzmann, William Parker, and Rashid Bakr shared the stage (but of course they have played with each other on numerous occasions). The recording signal overloads constantly, and the tape fails on a few occasions, resulting in tiny gaps in sound; tape-hiss creeps in whenever the quartet quiets down (a rare feat, granted). The press release advocates the fact that the crude recording gives the music a certain neo-authenticity, that it answers the raw performance and nods at the early days of free jazz. You are free to believe it or not, but at some point or another while listening to the album, you will wish it were better recorded, so let's not kid ourselves. That said, the performance is as gutsy as these two saxophonists can be. They scream at each other in a delightful over-emotional contest. The rhythm section is unstoppable. Parker's bass sounds like it was plugged into a distortion pedal. The Cooler Suite redefines the definition of power, a definition Brötzmann had already altered in the past. In two words: it smokes.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture