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Peter Brötzmann/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Never Too Late but Always Too Early

By all laws of physiology, Peter Brotzmann should have exploded years ago. Since the mid-1960s, the German tenor saxophonist has maintained a level of intensity that, in nature, usually extinguishes itself in matter of hours or even minutes. If excerpts of his solos from both the 1969 sessions that produced More Nipples and the 2001 club date that yielded Never Too Late but Always Too Early were placed side by side, even listeners with a passing familiarity with him would be hard pressed to ID the saxophonist that had just turned 60. Though Brotzmann’s late-’60s desire to metaphorically machine gun his audience may have mellowed with age, all of the bromides about the rewards of committed listening doubly applies to Brotzmann, especially the part about commitment. All three of these albums are tough, riveting stuff.

Though the two-CD Never Too Late is dedicated to Brotzmann’s late collaborator Peter Kowald, it was recorded nearly a year and a half before the bassist’s death in 2002. Still, whenever Brotzmann plays with bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake, there is a palpable aura of spirits unleashed, furiously seeking right. At the outset of these disc-long sets, Brotzmann sets a tone that could be called contemplative were it not for the piercing quality of his taragato or the foreboding tone of his alto clarinet; with Parker and Drake’s ever-shifting rhythmic weave underfoot, Brotzmann then steadily raises the heat, ultimately switching to his tenor, which plies a sky-shattering cry and an earth-opening growl. Regardless of the timing, the cathartic power of this album makes for a fitting tribute to Kowald.

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