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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.