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North Quartet - Malamute
1. Birds of the underworlds / Brotzmann
2. KingZong Swing / Uuskyla - MP3
3. Orange Scarf / Friis
4. Mastodons / Trzaska
Peter Brotzmann - alto & tenor saxophones, metal Bb clarinet
Mikolaj Trzaska - alto & C melody saxophones & bass clarinet
Peter Friis Nielsen - bass
Peeter Uuskyla - drums
Płyta jest zapisem jedynego koncertu, który odbył się 2 kwietnia 2005 roku w gdańskim klubie Żak.
North Quartet of two saxophonists - Peter Brotzmann (Germany) and Mikołaj Trzaska (Poland) - is sharp jazz improvisations.
Mikołaj Trzaska turns out to be (maybe beside Tomek Gwinciński) the most dedicated to realize his artistic visions and probably the most honest representative of the first generation of yass artists. Free from any creation, motivation beside artistic one, temptations of media, not adding any vague ideology to his music, he follows his track with consistency. Lately Trzaska is most active in the area of free. This field requires real maturity, self-awareness, self-confidence but also humility. Moreover, when we speak about collective playing, it also requires good communication between participating artists. Otherwise it will become a sound shambles. Trzaska found appropriate partners to realize this formula in Peter Friis-Nielsen (bass) and Peeter Uuskyla (drums), with whom he recorded the album - Unforgiven North. Today these musicians are first and foremost recognized as Peter Brötzmann's section. But they both have been present on European scene of improvised music for a very long time. They root from free jazz but also from American tradition developing nearby, even coming across electro acoustic of free improv school (especially Friis Nielsen that I have met first as a member of Ghost-In-The-Machine - formation drawing directly from the output of groups such as Music Improvisation Company - and only later other projects). The line-up of the group was completed when Brötzmann himself joined the trio. This, really powerful!, album is the recording of the concert which took place in April this year. The quartet's esthetics are determined first of all by the ecstatic free jazz with the spirit of Ayler or late Coltran but also free improv from Europe as well as noise-jazz search from the area of Last Exit, All four musicians are artists with unique expression. Wild, croaking sound of Brötzmann - once called saxophone's butcher - still maintains its virulence. His titanic, furious tone yet doesn't contradict strokes of peculiar, austere lyricism. It is accompanied by sometimes clearer, loftier but often also harsh, penetrating, always impassioned Trzaska's alt. Phrases of wind instruments explode time after time, they turn into dialogues relating to dazzling with their intensity two-voices of Coltrane and Phaorah Sanders recorded in the last months of "Love Supreme" author's life. Sometimes the tension disperses in subtly folk motives which are Mikołaj's specialty. Complex but with internal logic (even if it is based only on intuition) architecture of the already mentioned, very original section creates wobbling but very elastic and still stable frame. Friis-Nielsen's thick, peculiarly splashing sound practically lacking any regularity and Uuskyla's groove - often as irregular, rather thrifty and not hasty - absorb with their specific in their own way funky vibration.
The music seems to be an effort to get to own (as well as collective) extreme expression, which doesn't mean that instrumentalists lack self-control. Lack of control doesn't show the power of expression. In any case there is also space for moments of silence and concentration. It is worth to underline the aspect of "collectiveness". Although the language of each artist is very individual, they succeed in finding a relatively lasting common ground. What is important the music is also narrative, the pieces are peculiar stories; maintain structural unity and dramaturgical order.
Founding the North Quartet is Trzaska's unquestionable success. From Malamute emerges a picture of band impressing with lack of embarrassment, spontaneity and energy and at the same time characteristic and harmonious - and I can't say it about all Brötzmann's projects. Sometimes this German saxophonist seemed to me a sonic fury using his tenor with abandon regardless of the context. Closing himself in his own, hermetic world of sounds. Also here he blows with brawn and yet in harmony with the surrounding. Although it's not such a flowing and coherent statement as in the case of the most outstanding combo of liberated jazz improvisation in the last years - brilliant Die Like A Dog Quartet, where Brötzmann is accompanied by William Parker, Hamid Drake and Toshinori Kondo (in any case it is different school of playing), North Quartet is unquestionably a group with its own, charismatic nature presenting free on world level!
Łukasz Iwasiński - Fluid
After the common album of Mikołaj Trzaska and Brötzmann's section Uuskyla/Friis Nielsen the time has come for tour de force, that is the recording of the North Quartet's (the above mentioned trio with participation of the legendary German saxophonist) concert in April. I have to admit that the album is excellent and not because of Brötzmann's participation but most of all because it brings a very good musical material, recorded live, which in case of music based on improvisation is even more important as it allows to observe instrumentalists working not only with each other but interacting with the audience towards which the act of artistic creation is done which releases additional energy and passion.
North Quartet's musical message is uncompromising and it is close to all Brötzmann's collectives, it "brushes" all the time against the border between improvisation and musical anarchy, which yet never ultimately triumphs to sink the musicians' actions in esthetic chaos. The electric section gives this quartet almost a punk expression but it's not only a background for saxophonists' show who anyway avoid ostentatious sounds, which could become an easy and dangerous temptation and thwart the collective dimension of the improvisation. First of all the quiet (in the metaphorical sense) hero of the album is the bass player Friis Nielsen who spreads unbelievable spider web of electric sounds above, around or among the improvising partners. His function as a co organizer of individual pieces' rhythmic doesn't suffer. The rhythmic is very expressive and it is sometimes close to the achievements of Last Exit – the formation with definitely blues-funk roots! But North Quartet has yet their own, separate musical vision worth the attention and continuation, I believe.
Dariusz Brzostek (Gaz-eta, December 2005)
I have no doubts that it is worth to spend time on North Quartet's concert album. And not only in the media but especially at home and commune with it long enough to let it reach the listener. North Quartet is two trios in one quartet. On one hand there is Peter Brötzmann's Scandinavian trio, on the other there is the trio Trzaska/Friis/Uuskyla. In both the same section joins with the saxophonists with totally different background. Brötzman for many years has been most of all an avant-garde player, the power of European free scene, the author of such unforgettable pieces as "Machine Gun". But Brötzmann's road to this type of jazz started from dixieland playing. If I remember correctly Mikołaj has never played Dixie but started his musical adventure in rock bands. Currently he is probably the most uncontrollable and unpredictable soul of Polish jazz. Even if they both play free, which they have been doing for some time, Brötzmann is closer to ludic free coming from Ayler (although they came up with the similar way of playing in more or less the same time), and Trzaska is much closer (at least until now) to conceptions of free deeply rooted in Coleman's concept of blues.
Even if it doesn't seem so, the two trios are close to each other. Both saxophonists form a wonderful duet of saxophones (and clarinet) that intersects its passages in tangled solos. It is worth to mention that North Quartet in no way can be described as one of the two trios with a guest performance of the second saxophonist but it is a rightful group of four individualities. There is freedom in this music. There is inclination to the freest playing which can still be called teamwork. Wonderful, long, not hasty but emotional, energetic solos of saxophonists. Uuskyla's fantastic playing and Friis who is a bass guitar's magician.
The album is great. But after alchemic concerts I know that further existence of this quartet can bring even better and more inspired recordings. Being very impressed by the first album of North Quartet I'm looking forward to the next ones. For me it's a safe bet for one of the most important albums of Polish jazz in the last years and undoubtedly one of the best jazz albums published under the command of Polish leader (or at least co leader).
Paweł Baranowski (Diapazon, January 2006)