Manfred Schoof CD review [Unheard Music/Atavistic]

Music Reviews
Manfred Schoof CD review [Unheard Music/Atavistic]
Aug 20, 2002, 22:17


Atavistic continues to knock 'em outta the park with its impeccable reissues of scarce free jazz jewels in the Unheard Music Series. Even if you have only a passing interest in this stuff, the love that UMS curator John Corbett pours into the notes, along with the label's trademark eye-pleasing, tight graphics will win you over.

Fittingly, the title of what was originally the first release on Peter Brötzmann's Free Music Production label is an obvious homage to the American forefathers. But it's also a tribute to the liberating wail of the music's arrival, conceived as the fledgling sparks were taking flight across the continent, igniting the dormant jazz scenes in key cities. Trumpeter Manfred Schoof leads a colossal 16-piece “triple double” band; the two-part title piece features, at various points, the blowing of three pianos, three trumpets, three tenors, two drum kits, and three basses, along with guitar, trombone, and soprano sax. (Years after cutting this 1969 set, Schoof would come to the States to work with famed composer / arranger George Russell.)

The roster reads like a Who's Who of the late-60s Euro free scene; Schoof, Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Alexander Von Schlippenbach, the great Han Bennink on drums, and stalwart bassist Peter Kowald, whose sudden death in September of this year was a tragic shock. A dense brew, to be sure, but the highlights majestically reveal themselves with repeated plays. The clanging vortex of Benink and Pierre Favre gives way to broken glass piano; brass and reeds come to life, fall in… (Boiling… mounting… mounting…). Herculean, splatter-groaning grunts reach and stretch; screeching shrieks streak the skies, back and across—crashing into each other, exploding… (shudder…shuddering…crack!). Inhale deeply while we gasp-stab-grasp-stab-stab-gasssp… Up now to another, razor-edged plane—the blizzard crests; the fever breaks… This is it—schkreeeeeeonk-k-k-k-k… (Silence).

Life, death, and the heavens collapse. It's still ringing in your ears, but you made it through and you're a better person for it. Thirty minutes of intense catharsis, with no unnecessary “bonus” filler—trust me, this album stands on its own. Anything more would be…less. [Unheard Music/Atavistic]

-Peter Aaron

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