It was jaw-dropping when Jimmy Fallon ridiculed Peter Brötzmann on national TV. Last year, apropos of nothing, the giggly purveyor of “Slow Jam the News” took it upon himself to compile a “Do Not Play List,” which included the German saxophonist’s landmark 1969 album Nipples. How Fallon winced; how he cringed at the twisted, shredded soloing.
Brötzmann didn’t take it personally; he took it amusedly and bemusedly. Still, this titan is not to be mocked. For more than 55 years, Brötzmann has made deeply intellectual and rebellious art on his own terms, which very few can say they’ve done.
Now, we have more of it with Jazz in der Kammer Nr. 71—and if you think pseudo-intellectual austerity when you think free jazz, you’ve got the wrong man. From top to bottom, this April 1974 concert in Berlin with Brötzmann on tenor sax and clarinet, Fred van Hove on piano, and Han Bennink on drums and percussion is brainy, raging, and wickedly fun—less akin to free jazz than Jerry Lee Lewis’ Live at the Star Club.
From the stampeding “Schwarzspecht” to the serrating “Der Mammutzahn aus Balve” to the skull-rattling “Involved,” Jazz in der Kammer is as good an entrance to Brötzmann’s singular universe as any: Let your ears go slack and it’s purely anarchic, uncompromising art, not the stuff of pugnacious Discogs sellers fighting over bent corners.
Plus, it’s worth hearing even if your usual taste veers far away from this sphere—if only for the fact that the world is becoming more streamlined, corporatized, and linear by the day. Which makes our genuine weirdos, like Brötzmann, more worth holding close than ever.