By: Borah Bergman, Peter Brötzmann, Frode Gjerstad
Catalog No: MW 939-2
Price: 12 EUR
"Borah Bergman was my favorite pianist. One of the few pianists who can work with me at all."
"One of the greatest pianists of our time."
"Borah Bergman is perhaps the most technically accomplished pianist in jazz -- and if he's not at the top, then he's certainly on a short list of two."
1. Left hand 18:23
2. Left us 11:54
3. Left out 24:47
Borah Bergman: piano
Peter Brötzmann: tenor sax, clarinet and tarogato
Frode Gjerstad: alto sax
Recorded at Molde International Jazzfestival, July 17, 1996
Featuring Borah Bergman on piano, Peter Brotzmann on ten or sax, bass clarinet & taragato and Frode Gjerstad on alto sax. This set was recorded live at the Molde International Jazz Festival in Norway in July of 1996. When Borah Bergman passed in 2012, we lost one of the finest and most distinctive pianists to emerge from New York in the past century. Mr. Bergman has recorded duo CDs with both Mr. Brotzmann and Mr. Gjerstad in the past, as well as a couple of trios with Anthony Braxton or Andrew Cyrille.
Mr. Brotzmann erupts with his unique, clarion call tenor right from the first note. He is soon joined by Mr. Bergman’s explosive piano and later by Mr. Gerstad’s equally distinctive, bent-note cluster. The sound here is superb, the performance well-balanced and well-recorded. There are three long pieces here, each with the word “Left” in the title as in “Left Hand”. Mr. Bergman was well-known for his singular-style ambidextrous playing, even recording an entire album side of just his left hand at the piano. What makes this combination so intriguing is that Mr. Bergman is often balancing two separate lines or strategies with each hand as well as interacting with each saxist independently. This makes for some fascinating listening which requires some deep concentration as two strong forces shift between different poles. Both Mr. Brotzmann (on tenor or clarinet) and Mr. Gerstad are well-matched saxists. Sometimes Brotzmann slows down to carefully bend certain notes while Gjerstad speeds up, interjecting occasional streams of notes. I like that this session is not all, over-the-top bluster, there are a number of more stark moments which are filled with suspense and thoughtful ruminations. This is a colossal trio effort that had me at the edge of my seat throughout its 55 minute length.
(Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG)
Borah Bergman, who would have turned 90 December 13, but who died in 2012, once said he viewed art as a “fight”. But the pugnacious pianist would have viewed this trio session as a cordial skirmish rather than an all-out battle. Certainly this encounter with German reedist Peter Brötzmann and Norwegian alto saxophonist Frode Gjerstad might ironically be defined as friendly fire. None of the participants hold back, yet the take-away is alliance not annihilation.
Like a boxer who trains in private for years before he displays his skill, Bergman didn’t record until he was almost 50. At that point the New Yorker’s unique ambidextrous style – he could play anything with his left hand as his right – was fully formed. He recorded prolifically until his death, lining up sparing partners in Europe as well as the U.S. Representing the light (Gjerstad) and the heavy (Brötzmann) weight classes of Euroimprov, these reedists were frequent Bergman challengers. Left is particularly noteworthy since it preserves the pianist’s earliest recordings with either man.
The equivalent of observing pugilists who already attained their ideal fighting weight, the session’s year makes little difference however. Once Brötzmann’s phlegmatic, stomach-clenching tone is heard, followed Tonto-like by Bergman’s galloping chording and Gjerstad interjecting measured coloration, identification is assured. So closely matched are the three that any keyboard sounding or reed scream is instantaneously answered by an equally weighed response. Bergman’s exposition may join Cecil Taylor-like dynamism with the speed of player-piano rolls, but his rhythmic intensity also takes on boogie-woogie-like echoes. The saxophonists’ acerbity never masks tonal sympathy either, so that some sequences blend melodically as if played by a chamber music trio. Throughout, especially on the concluding “Left Out”, Bergman showcases distinctive steeplechase jumping-like pacing, splashing tremolos and, at points, introduces near-swing.
Bookended by more extended tunes, “Left Us” is the key track. It delineates the logical strength of Gjerstad’s peppy tasteful lines. While less upfront than the others, Gjerstad’s logical reflections exert enough pressure to cement the pianist’s hurricane-like note showers and Brötzmann’s raging screams into triple-gaited ambulatory motion. Left leaves us with a proper tribute to a pianist, with the proviso that his best sonic fights took place against equally matched improvisers.
(Ken Waxman, Jazzword.com)