European jazz truly came into its own in the 60s, when musicians in the Netherlands, England, and Germany, long inspired by models from the U.S., programmatically sought to develop indigenous forms of expression. The music they created was often volatile, loud, and provocative, as befitting the tumultuous politics and social upheavals of the time. German clarinetist and saxophonist Peter Broetzmann was one of the main protagonists of this first wave of independent European improvisers. While some of his cohorts have left us or have found security in more tempered playing, Broetzmann has remained true to the musical ideals of his youth.
He began his artistic quest as a visual artist but soon developed a love of music and taught himself to play a broad range of wind instruments. A powerful man, he attacked his horns in a visceral manner, sometimes seeming to scream through the wood and metal. Commentators have often mischaracterized him as a disciple of the American saxophonist Albert Ayler, but his playing is much more varied and lyrical than that. In a way, his approach can be structurally compared with that of Ben Webster, a swing era saxophonist known for his lyrical ballad playing who played with an enormous sound and was nicknamed "The Brute."
Broetzmann likes to create different sound palettes, and therefore often changes instruments during a performance. But his search for soundscapes reaches further, and his music is essentially collaborative, architectural, and orchestral, whether working in a duo or leading his all-star tentet. On the rare occasion when he performs or records by himself, his improvised solos likewise reveal a concern for thematic development and structural complexity.
Although initially identified with the European free jazz movement of the 60s, he has always collaborated with American players--first with expatriates such as Steve Lacy and later with musicians in this country. Recently he has been collaborating closely with colleagues from Chicago, especially with those who have been part of his long-lasting tentet.
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