Stone/Water (OD12032)
Peter Brötzmann — tenor sax/clarinet
Ken Vandermark — tenor sax/clarinet/bass clarinet
Mats Gustafsson — tenor sax/fluteophone
Jeb Bishop — trombone
Toshinori Kondo — trumpet/electronics
Fred Lonberg-Holm — cello, violin
William Parker — bass
Kent Kessler — bass
Michael Zerang — drums
Hamid Drake — drums/frame drum
Cover and Artwork cover

Design & Art by: Peter Brötzmann
Additional Design & Production by: Louise Molnar

Songs ©&®2000 Retained by the artists.

Recording Info recorded live at:
16th Festival de Musique de Actuelle Victoriaville in Victoriaville, Quebec, Canada by Radio Canada (5/23/99)

producer of recording: Mario Gauthier
Denis LeClerc, Michel Lariviere
mastered by: John McCortney at Air Wave Studios
produced by: Peter Brötzmann, Bruno Johnson & John Corbett
Exec. Producer: Bruno Johnson

Reviews #2: Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet, Stone/Water (OkkaDisk). On this live recording, German free jazz sax legend Brötzmann earns a key to the Windy City by heading up a brilliant and boisterous band dominated by Chicagoans: reed man [Ken] Vandermark, trombonist Jeb Bishop, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and drummers Hamid Drake and Michael Zerang. Boasting a single extended piece, Stone/Water is by turns hair-raising, tuneful and, in continually changing focus and texture, crafty.

— Lloyd Sachs, “10 best of the year: Chicago’s jazz greats”, Chicago Sun-Times, January 5, 2001

When Peter Brötzmann’s Chicago Tentet played the 1999 Victoriaville Festival, they had recorded their opus three-CD set on OkkaDisk and played live only on a few occasions. When they hit the stage, they were hot off an appearance at the Empty Bottle Festival in Chicago, and were rested and primed. This CD features the extended composition Brötzmann had prepared, which constituted the second set of their performance. Through the piece, the leader blocks and masses the dense horns, swirling strings, and cascading drums and then opens the ensemble up for extended solos by each of the players. As good as the 3-CD set is, this version of the Tentet benefits from the added drive of William Parker’s bass and Toshinori Kondo’s trumpet flurries and slashing shards of electronics. With three horn players like Brötzmann, Gustafsson, and Vandermark, what could have easily become just a molten blow-out instead transforms into a captivating pastiche of extended explorations. And the countering polyrhythmic currents of Zerang and Drake never let the energy and momentum flag.

Brötzmann revels in the opportunity to break the ensemble into smaller subsets that arc off and then flow back into the massed grouping. The piece starts out with a blistering blast, and then jumps into an eddying vortex. This slowly opens up with Kondo’s altered and muted trumpet crashing off of Bishop’s muted trombone and the shifting wall of arco strings until the horns come crashing in again, sketching out the overall structure. Blustering gusts of raging horns burst in and then fade back for groupings that let each of the players stretch out. When the piece builds to a head and then breaks for a solo foray by Kondo, it is as if a storm has broken. The trumpet player lays out skirling flows of notes and then shreds and flays them with electronic manipulations, mounting tension again that is picked up by the reeds. It is intriguing in this context to hear the athletic, slapping microtones and details of Gustafsson’s playing contrasted with the barreling, jazz-inflected excursions of Vandermark and the leader’s searing fusillades. Whrn the piece finally comes back around at the end to Brötzmann wailing over the forceful drive of the ensemble, it brings the journey to dazzling climax. When his solo breaks, Parker’s hushed arco ostinatos bring the entire piece to a bracing conclusion. This focused set is ample proof that Brötzmann has found a compelling set of musicians with which to continue to expand his musical vision. Kudos go to OkkaDisk for continuing to document this important ensemble.

— Michael Rosenstein, Cadence Vol. 27 #1 (December 2000)

With any sizeable Brötzmann group, the temptation is always there to compare it to his classic Machine Gun unit. This new tentet doesn’t match up to the unbridled ferocity of that earlier grouping, but then what has? Perhaps the greatest sea change since the heavy-drinking glory days of 1968 is that ecstatic playing is now as much an idiom as an instinctive response. For all its supposed iconoclastic freedom, this idiom now has its own traditions, its own heroes, and its own stock cliches. Youthful rage, frustration and joy have subsided, to be replaced by an awareness that ecstatic playing is one option among many, albeit one that requires more art and dedication than any other in the history of jazz.

In any era, though, this would be a startling group [...]. All these musicians are capable of investing energy and truth into an idiom which, in lesser hands, is in danger of becoming as empty as the ciphers of trad or swing. This 1999 concert date presumably proceeds in a conduction style through a series of smaller sectional pairings. Perhaps in deference to the acoustics of the concert hall, individual virtuosic showcases are preferred to the full power splat of the whole group, which is saved here till the very end. Still, there are many highlights, including Kondo’s electronically splattered trumpet, and a wonderful trombone solo from Bishop set against a galloping bassline, and Drake’s ever swinging drums.

— Alan Cummings, The Wire, August 2000

Peter Brötzmann earned lasting notoriety with Machine Gun, his breakthrough recording. The infamous 1968 session unleashed a sonic onslaught by an octet of elite European free improvisers. Thirty-one years later, Brötzmann brought his Chicago Tentet (including a few ringers) to Victoriaville for this short, but cathartic performance. Stone/Water crosses national and generational lines, aligning the fearsome saxophonist with younger, sympathetic players like Ken Vandermark, Mats Gustafsson and Jeb Bishop. Everyone gets to play, as Brötzmann arranges a series of encounters featuring small subgroups, such as string players or brass players. Each episode in this continuous performance builds to a febrile climax fueled by the squalling, shrieking horn section.

Some of the most interesting permutations involve trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and/or percussionist Hamid Drake. Given three crazed reed players and no liner notes, it can be difficult to sort out who else participates in the mayhem at any given moment. The final episode gathers speed over a turbulent, locomotive rhythm, as the frenzied voices of the players build to a din, seemingly playing until the final release leaves them exhausted. My only disappointment with Stone/Water is that I didn’t hear more soloing by Brötzmann himself.

— Jon Andrews, Down Beat, December 2000