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John Corbett's Unheard Music Series Presents A Superb Reissue Of The Legendary Fmp Label's Second-Ever Release: ?Balls?, Waxed By Peter Br?tzmann, Han Bennink & Fred Van Hove-- The Essential Recording By One Of The Most Influential Free Music Trios Of All Time. Ums Has Preserved The Original Package Design, Even Simulating The Uncoated Stock Used On The Decades-Out-Of Print Lp; The Monumental Music Has Been Remastered From The Original Tapes. Finally, The Classic Studio Session Originally Tracked In 1970 For Fmp Has Been Augmented With Two Substantive, Previously Unheard & Unissued Tracks From The Period. Interestingly, The ?Balls? Sessions Were Actually The First Studio Recordings Commissioned Specifically By Fmp For Release, As Manfred Schoof's European Echoes (Fmp0010) Initially Circulated As A Live Tape That Ended Up Christening The Label As It's Debut. ?Balls? Is The First Album To Be Reissued By This Famed Trio, Documenting Some Of Their Most Spectacularly Physical Efforts During The Their History Together (The Latter-Day Fmp Label Has Reissued Work By The Group As A Quartet Including Albert Mangelsdorf). In Short,?Balls? Has It All: Peter Br?tzmann's Blistering Tenor Squal, Han Bennink's Limitless ?Ber-Kit World Of Sound, And Fred Van Hove's Ceaselessly Inventive Keys Created Unquestionably One Of The Definitive Jazz Recordings Of The 1970's. ?Free Action!? Indeed!
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The album reminds me of Zappa's more adventurous instrumentals (like the track Nine Types of Industrial Pollution off the Uncle Meat album and the whole album of Lumpy Gravy) and of the avant garde composers like Varese and Xenakis. It's blisteringly intense as usual, and Bennik plays tons of percussion while Van Hove plays often inside the piano, a trick used to great effect. Brotzmann's almost like an overseer here, only interjecting himself at exactly the right moments.
There are so many Brotzmann albums out there that it may be nearly impossible to collect everything the man has done, but Balls is one definitely searching out for. Brotzmann gives the avant garde a run for its money here with Balls. My favorite tracks are actually the bonus tracks (untitled 1 and 2), the epic title track, and a track with an emphatically long Dutch title that I have somehow managed to cut and past without too much trouble (De daag waarop sipke eindelijik zijn nagels knipte, en verder all andere a moten voor hem openstoden). This album is recommended for adventerous eyes and ears and especially hearts.
Recorded and released in 1970, the original BALLS featured two tracks by Brotz on Side 1, and one track each by Van Hove and Bennink on Side 2. The CD reissue also includes two group improvisations ("Untitled 1 and 2"), which adds 14 minutes of music for a total of 55 minutes. This release on Atavistic Records, in its Unheard Music Series, special subcategory Archive FMP Edition, includes the original album art, and the disc itself is a duplicate of the original FMP vinyl edition (Side 1!). The insert folds out to a replica of a poster, with four photos of the trio in action, and in big letters -- FREE ACTION!
This set makes a great pair with the 1969 NIPPLES (see my 6/15/00 review), featuring a sextet more similar to the octet on MACHINE GUN -- it's also available from Atavistic/FMP Edition. And you might even feel like MORE NIPPLES, a more recent discovery, sessions that were never heard at all until 2003. You can hear the same trio on the disc simply called FMP 0130, the name used by devotees for all these years waiting for the little plastic disc, which finally appeared last year. What makes FMP 0130 unique is that it features very short pieces, for the most part, and lots of Bennink's wild humor. It's a sort of dada circus music, and quite different from anything else I've heard Brotz play. This one, BALLS, is more typical -- extended improvisations with minimal vocals or zaniness.