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Album Review

Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath “Bremen to Bridgwater” [Cuneiform Records]

cujo   3/29/2006   CD, Jazz

This is now officially the happiest album I’ve reviewed, and it’s going to be tough to knock this one off its position. There are 3 live concerts here on 2 CDs: 1 in Bremen, Germany in 1971 and 2 in Bridgwater, England in 1975. Praise be to Cuneiform for releasing these concerts. The Brotherhood was a wind-heavy big band ensemble, we’re talking old-school, Duke Ellington big, and many a British jazz career got a big lift in their lineup (like Evan Parker, who plays on concert C).

There’s an incredible exuberant vibe on these tracks, a Charlie Brown kind of innocence to it all. The music isn’t quite so simple though: all those horns get deliciously wild and crazy, and they get pushed to the brink of total chaos time and again by Louis Moholo’s drums. Right when you think they’ve played themselves to the edge and are about to take the plunge off the cliffs of insanity, they get reeled back in to the hooks to extremely satisfying effect, whether they be pounding marching band / Mardi Gras tunes (my favorite picks) or more Glenn Miller-y swinging serenades. In typical big band pianist fashion, Chris McGregor himself stays in the background, though this may be a function of the (instantly forgivable) so-so recording (the bass is also buried). Excellent liner notes. Simply tremendous; I can’t get enough.

Super Standouts: CD1 tracks 1,2 CD2 tracks 1,6

-Cujo, KFJC, February 2006

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