It took a while before Fred Van Hove and Peter Brötzmann reached their spot on the stage of the Summer Bummer Festival in 2019. This was a highly anticipated concert of two legendary musicians that wiped the floor with just about any concept of jazz and improvised music when they and their peers came to prominence in the second half of the sixties. While the audience started applauding and cheering all the other participating artists of the festival – amongst them good folk like Angel Bat Dawid, Steve Noble, Thurston Moore, Paal Nilssen-Love, Frank Rosaly, Jeb Bishop, Signe Emmeluth, Adam Cadell … – where rushing in hoping to secure a good seat for this exceptional concert. When reaching center stage Van Hove stopped and looked at the audience, amused and amazed at so many enthusiastic people while Brötzmann prepared his horns and waited, stoically.
You could feel the tension building. Several more minutes passed before Van Hove decided to slowly continu to the piano at the far end of the stage. And then, just when everyone in the audience thought he definitely lost it on the way over, bam… In a split second Van Hove sat down, hit the piano keys with brute force diving into an impressive cluster of notes front to front with Brötzmann’s powerful trademark tenor skronk, an introduction that instantly made the seated audience rock backwards in sync, as if an emotional tidal wave just hit them full on, leaving some of them ecstatic and some of them in tears. That’s what a concert can do to a person when almost 60 years of pioneering adventurous music is brilliantly compressed into 40 minutes of sheer musical bliss by two of it’s central figures.
Aptly titled Front To Front by the artists themselves this sublime new musical statement by Fred Van Hove and Peter Brötzmann recorded at the Summer Bummer Festival in 2019 is available as a limited edition vinyl release (300 copies) including a digital download, for the Dropa Disc label as of October 2020. Or you can buy the digital release – MP3, WAV, AAC Formats + art work jpgs – on this page.
DROPA DISC #009-DL
VAN HOVE / BRÖTZMANN: FRONT TO FRONT
1. TERMS AND PHRASES
2. QUITE A PACKAGE
3. FRONT TO FRONT
4. NERVOUS PUDDING
Music by Van Hove/Sabam and BrötzmannGEMA/FMP-Publishing
Release: 6 October 2020
Fred Van Hove: Piano
Peter Brötzmann: Reeds
Recorded by Nick Symons at the Summer Bummer Festival, DE Studio, Antwerp August 24 2019
Edited & Mixed by Koen Vandenhoudt, Antwerp 2019
Mastered by Christophe Albertijn, Brussels 2020
Live concert produced by Sound in Motion – soundinmotion.be
Produced by Koen Vandenhoudt & Peter Brötzmann
Executive Producers: Koen Vandenhoudt & Christel Kumpen
Cover Design & Layout: Broe/Untiet
Photos: Wanda Detemmerman
Review Front To Front by Guy Peters for Enola 24/9/2020:
The 2019 edition of the Summer Bummer Festival had a lot to offer, but will always be remembered as the edition that reunited Fred Van Hove and Peter Brötzmann. Their historic concert just was released by Dropa Disc and needs to be singled out for various reasons
With artists like these, you’re dealing with a crucial chapter in European improvisation history. The Antwerp-Wuppertal-Amsterdam-axis (AWA) was a key connection in the revolutionary movement that most famously included the big bang of Machine Gun (1968) by the Brötzmann Octet, but there was more. The trio of Brötzmann, Van Hove and Bennink had been active since 1966 and would exist for almost a decade, with Tschüs closing the book on one of the most turbulent trios of the European scene. The band only included XL personalities, with Van Hove sandwiched by the voluminous dominance of his colleagues.
“If you want your space and your time you have to fight. Nowadays they talk about dialogue or creating a space, but you know, that’s why it’s all so fucking boring.” The words that Brötzmann used to describe his collaboration with Bennink in a 2012 interview with The Wire, speak for themselves. For these guys, musicianship became an act of war, with battles that allowed all weapons imaginable to be used. It became one of the reasons the trio couldn’t exist forever. The atmosphere between Brötzmann and Bennink was one of friction and resistance, even though it usually went hand in hand with humour and sheer madness. Van Hove was often the guy who infused their musical thunderstorms with sudden folk music fragments. Crooked waltzes, tottering tango’s and familiar tunes popped up within a seething terror, just to keep things in balance.
Their wanton humour and stylistic detours are absent on Front To Front, but don’t expect all too comfortable, friendly interaction either. More than four decades after disbanding the trio, both musicians can look back on well-documented careers, even if the German’s received much more attention. And if Brötzmann’s untameable, raw core always remained intact, Van Hove went into decidedly different directions. The Van Hove we heard in 2019 (but you could say the same about the guy in 2009 or 1999) is a different musician from the one in the early 70’s. You could hear that on the 3cd set Fred Van Hove at 80, and you can hear it now. The man shuffled towards the piano with a look of surprise on his face, but that impression disappeared as soon as his fingers touched the ivory in opener “Terms And Phrases”.
Van Hove lets his hands glide over the keys and still manages to sound percussive. His playing is exploratory and free, but with a playful edge. Occasionally with tempestuous staccato bursts, but as frequent with a remarkably light touch. It’s very different from Brötzmann, who kicks things off with one of his trademark roars. His music is like a blood-raw abstract mass in which breath is the key unit, but in this dialogue, his playing offers more of a hold than his colleague’s. The repetitions, hints at melody and primal blues contain an energy that contrasts well with Van Hove’s fickle style. It’s not an explicitly reactive happening, it’s no question & answer-pattern, but a merger of methods. That implies friction and an unwillingness to compromise, but also an instinctive empathy, even if you need to look for it in the fierce calls of the tenor saxophone or tarogato (sounding like a soprano saxophone with a lung infection).
Van Hove’s playing is capricious with jumpy intervals and dark shadows in “Quite A Package”, while the title track offers more space for an introspective approach. The piano explores hesitantly, pensive and elusive, which inspires the reed player to turn to his silver clarinet. It sets off a tighter interaction with a surprisingly warm melancholy. A special moment appears when Brötzmann lets a raw sound slip out and Van Hove immediately reacts with a loudly struck note. It’s the start of an intense finale full of contrast between the shrill clarinet shrieks and nearly drone-like stubbornness in the piano’s lower register. Final piece “Nervous Pudding” suggests relatives following their own course while maintaining a game of push and pull without any reserve. Even at an age of 82 and 78, no concessions were allowed.
This is music that befits tumultuous lives, something the striking photographs used in the artwork are also a testimony to. Attending this concert was a memorable, even emotional happening for most of the audience, and this release makes that synergy also tangible for those who couldn’t be there. As such, Front To Front became a tribute to free music as a never-ending work-in-progress, and at the same time a resounding final chapter in Van Hove’s pioneering, strikingly personal and brilliant career.