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Brötzmann / Mangelsdorff / Sommer - Pica Pica

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Artist: Brötzmann / Mangelsdorff / Sommer

Album: Pica Pica

Label: Unheard Music Series

Review date: Feb. 13, 2007

Atavistic’s Unheard Music Series has been the source of some choice reissues since its inception, and Peter Brötzmann has shown up on more than his share. To date, he’s been a part of 12 of the series’ discs, spanning the decades from the German’s first release, 1967’s For Adolphe Sax, to the mid-1980s. Pica Pica, a recording of a 1982 date at Jazzfest Unna, features Brötzmann in a trio format with longtime collaborator trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff and drummer Günter Sommer, the latest in a revolving cast of percussionists (Bennink, Van Hove).

What was once side A of Pica Pica consists of “Instant Tears,” a 20-minute Brötzmann/Mangelsdorff piece, with Sommer (after some explosives to begin the track) playing a support role throughout. Due to both timbre and volume, Mangelsdorff can be obscured by his mates, especially during one of Brötzmann’s trademark missives, but the latter is held surprisingly in check during much of the recording, and there’s ample chance for Mangelsdorff and Sommer to make themselves heard in a session built more around rhythmic interplay than sheer pyrotechnics.

Sommer’s “Wie du mir, so ich dir noch lange nicht” is the drummer’s showcase, opening with some sharp cymbal play before sliding into something heavier. Sommer’s playing is articulate, and it’s his wont - even when given the chance for a solo - to craft a series of sharply accentuated rhythms, calculated though never without verve. In their interactions, Mangelsdorff tends towards brief melodies and understated punctuation, while Brötzmann’s appearances are vaguely reminiscent of the arrival of a hyperactive child among his more demure peers. The entrance might be irritating, were it not for his magnetic personality. His reeds take the music from a simmer to rolling boil in no time, and there are segments in which Brötzmann is exactly the fiery foil needed to compliment his compatriots’ playing.

While the album is rarely staid, Pica Pica requires attention to subtlety; Brötzmann’s artillery can easily distract the listener’s attention from Mangelsdorff and Sommer's deft interaction. Blistering volleys from the trio aren’t in absentia on the album, but they are certainly, and enjoyably, not its strong point. Given that its namesake European magpie is known in folklore as a thief, it’s a pleasant surprise that Pica Pica is so dependent on sharing the spotlight.

By Adam Strohm

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