By Howard Mandel | Published February 2020
The distance between Machine Gun, German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann’s 1968 call-to-arms, and I Surrender Dear, his unaccompanied, rubato investigation of mostly standards and blues, is a 50-plus-year career.
Revolutionized by the expressionism of Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, Brötzmann led European power-players in full-out assaults on conventions they identified with society’s past. Playing out that intensity for decades, Brötzmann, now 78, prolifically and internationally embodies unfettered improvisation.
He’s mellowed, but surrendered nothing, offering unfiltered, stream-of-feeling horn blowing. He’s still a burry, tough and sometimes frustrated soul, but more than on any other recording, here he’s by turns transparently tender, bluesy, jaunty, tentative, self-reflective, gnarly and aspirational. In the liner notes, he writes that he means “to show—mostly to myself—the connection between what has been and what there is right NOW—[that] one can’t exist without the other.”
With respect and evident affection, he addresses melodies that have stayed in his mind even as he’s exploded song form, abandoned chord changes and advanced raw energy in a cri de coeur. Each track is a soliloquy, comprising personal references, investigations and reminiscences: “I Surrender Dear” and “Lady Sings The Blues” are curmudgeonly sweet; “Dark Blues” is deeply sincere. He worries a bit in “Lover Come Back To Me” and mulls over Sonny Rollins’ “Sumphin’,” but only on “Brozziman” does he briefly squeal and squall. Whatever his affect, Brötzmann transforms breath into sound, providing a measure of peace.
I Surrender Dear: I Surrender Dear; Lover Come Back To Me; Lady Sings The Blues; Con Alma; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Dark Blues; Improvisation Über Ein Thema Von Bach; Churchsong; Sumphin’; Brozziman; Ballade/Love Poem Nr. 7/Blues; I Surrender Dear. (57:04)
Personnel: Peter Brötzmann, tenor saxophone.