Catching Ghosts

ACT 9970CD ACT 9970CD

"Catching Ghosts by revered, iconoclastic 81-year-old reedist Peter Brötzmann with Moroccan Gnaoua adept Majid Bekkas playing two-stringed, camelskin-backed guembre and Chicago-bred drummer Hamid Drake, proves that 'free' spontaneous interactions deriving power from age-old traditions can transcend cultural lines. Improvising on incantations from Gnaoua liturgy, Brötzmann's horn cries as summons and statement; Drake's drums awaken inner impulses; Bekkas' strings, plucked and strummed, tie it all together, and his voice brings the song home. But this is no lucky success: The music is vital due to its players' career-long practice, their knowledge of heritage, and belief the past must always be reinterpreted, renewed. American jazz giants have jammed with Gnaouans, but for Brötzmann, Europe's exemplar of unfettered blowing, to grapple with such material is to hear a new synthesis. 'My approach is get in and disturb these themes, so other things happen,' he explains. 'I'm not thinking about scales or harmonies. I follow Bekkas, and when he changes, I do something against it to make the music interesting to me. The dialectic is a good way to make something new, out of tension. I need that in any sort of playing.' Bekkas aligns himself with Brötzmann, championing the revival of Gnaouan culture, which originates in the uneasy history of freed Black slaves integrating with Moroccan Islamic society. The music relates to American blues, as Bekkas knows. Drake orchestrates the open format, making drama from grooves so each track of Catching Ghosts tells its own story, signifying meaning though it be pre-linguistic. That suits Brötzmann's adjustment of his signature style. 'I don't have to play all high energy anymore,' says the German who shook up the jazz world in 1968 with his album Machine Gun. 'Now I'm more interest in dynamics and sound.' Those tangible qualities universalize the challenge of Catching Ghosts."