Al Maslakh
al maslakh (the slaughterhouse) is a ufo created to publish the unpublishable in the lebanese artistic scene


Peter Brötzmann | tenor saxophone, tarogato, b-flat clarinet
Michael Zerang
| drum set, darbuka, percussion

02 | YALLA KHOLOUD | 11.40

all compositions by: peter brötzmann (© gema / fmp publishing) and michael zerang (© munimulamusic 2005)

thanks to:
goethe institute - beirut, lebanon
illinois art council - a state agency - usa
nayla sehnaoui, sharif sehnaoui, and mazen kerbaj

performed live at the théâtre monnot, beirut on july 10, 2005 at the 5th irtijal festival of improvised music
recorded by marc codsi
mixed and mastered by lou mallozzi at experimental sound studio, chicago
artwork & design by mazen kerbaj

produced in lebanon by al maslakh


In July 2005, the Irtijal festival proposed two concerts(*) of the Brötzmann / Zerang duo in Beirut. This first appearance of German Free Jazz and Improv legend Peter Brötzmann on the middle-eastern/arabic underground scene definitely left a mark on both the players and the audience.
Brötzmann's raw energy found in Beirut "naturally" trained ears to react to his music. The intensity of his playing surprised at first an audience new to this kind of music, then drowned everybody in its tornado.
Zerang's performance is not a usual drummer's one. Not even in Brötzmann's standards. Rarely in the role of the accompanying rythmic partner, he is the perfect match to engage a dialog with the sax player. Passing from complex and intense rhythms to a minimalist/reductionist solo, Zerang ensorcelled the crowd, especially when he played hard-core rhythms and extended techniques on the lebanese national percussion instrument, the darbuka (or debakeh).

Besides the encounter with a new audience, these concerts were also the occasion for the first duo between Brötzmann and Zerang who share a decade of strong musicianship in groups like the Brötzmann/McPhee/Kessler/Zerang quartet or the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet. The complicity between the musicians is evident from the first to the last sound, and the result is a CD that will definitely have a prominent place in the long Brötzmann history of sax/drums duos started in the seventies with Dutch drummer Han Bennink.

Mazen Kerbaj, march 2006

(*) this CD documents the second concert.


Influential as it is, Peter Brötzmann's sax tone is among the most inimitable instrumental voices ever. And when his emotional content meets the uselessness of a "technical proficiency" that's right there anyway - this happens regularly in "Live in Beirut" - there's the good chance of being testimonies to the birth of something special. Enter Michael Zerang's mouth-watering performance, which couples magnificently with Brötzmann's passionate tantrums and connected individualism in four duets chock full of scintillating musicianship. Zerang is not necessarily contrary to patterns or structures; in fact, he raises serious mayhem through steady (?) pulse and interactive percussive anatomy. He also plays a mean darbuka solo on the second track, with his comrade exploring the hidden significance of tarogato with subtle responsiveness. When the pair decides to shift that couple of gears, all hell comes loose - but even Satan and Lucifer are seen nodding their head in approval. A saxophonist throwing out a gut solitude that exploits fervour with incendiary purpose; a drummer who can match his opponent punch for punch, at the same time inviting him out for dinner while working his ass off in belly-dancing rhythmic variations. No wonder that, according to the liners, the Beirut audience responded enthusiastically to this set, which in my walkman-enhanced early morning wait at the train station provided the right set off to a nondescript day. This is explosive fuel for your yawning moments, the best rebellion to being submerged by football and "Dancing With The Stars" chit-chat. Fellow commuters be damned.
Massimo Ricci | Touching Extreme

Historically beset by bombings, Beirut is a city long overdue for Peter Brötzmann's brand of cathartic musical explosives. Live in Beirut 2005 documents his Lebanese debut and is part of an initial cache of releases on the fledgling Al Maslakh label, owned and operated by Mazen Kerbaj. Kerbaj, an improviser in his own right, is perhaps best known for the blog he maintained during the Israeli bombing of Lebanon this summer. He's also served as a key organizer behind the annual Irtijal Festival of Improvised Music from which the concert originates.
With scores of recordings behind him and countless stamps in his passport, Brötzmann has long since settled into an approach akin to that of the celebrated Delta bluesman. The basic tropes of his performance strategy largely transplant from locale to locale. An audience can pretty much bank on a series of typhoon-force reed salvos, while accompanying colleagues are commonly relegated to keeping pace, adding color and staying out of mustachioed cyclone's way. The deepest pleasures arise in the tiny details and deviations in an otherwise interchangeable schematic. Stage-toppling explosives are expected, but Brötzmann has been known to surprise audiences with sudden shifts to lyrical, even tender, emotion. A handful of such detours decorate this set, most stirringly in the closing segment of "Illusion of Progress," a 30-minute immolating improvisation dominated by signature raw-boned blowing. Brötzmann caps the nitro and slowly states the somber melody to "Master of a Small House," a tune dedicated to deceased bassist Fred Hopkins that has become his "Body & Soul" over the past several years. The wounded pathos spilling from his tenor's bell washes away the excess and vehemence of what has come before. It's a tactic repeated on the brief closer "Banyan Revolution," which offers a piquant taste of Brötzmann's pitch-peregrinating clarinet.
Drummer Michael Zerang is no novice to Brötzmann's preferences, having played in dozens of settings with the German over the past decade. He comes across here like a combination of his friend Hamid Drake and historical Brötzmann foil Han Bennink, bringing along small array of ethnic percussion instruments to complement his kit. On "Yalla Kholoud," undulating darbuka beats deliver an elastic undercarriage to an excoriating tarogato barrage. Like Bennink, he's also not averse to piling on metallic detritus to add grit and dissonance to his fractured rhythms. "A Daytime Nightmare" features the fiercest and most concentrated mayhem of the date. Brötzmann blows in shrieking spouts and Zerang responds with pummeling clatter, but the clouds break in the final minutes as the saxophonist once again turns reflective in a passing spate of raw steak swing. The concert may echo a host of earlier encounters, but with the value in the details there is still plenty here to recommend.
Derek Taylor | Dusted Magazine

Douglas S. Kahn's history of sound Noise, Water, Meat finds its primary example of the scream in Lautreamont's Maldoror. Hard to believe there's not a single reference to Peter Brötzmann, the saxophonist whose existentialist scream can freeze the blood in your veins. Here's another addition to the enormous Brötzmann discography, a duo with percussionist Michael Zerang recorded during the 2005 IRTIJAL festival and released on Mazen Kerbaj's Al-maslakh label. Both musicians start in predictable energy-music mode for the first ten minutes of "Illusion of Progress", then shift to elegiac Eastern-sounding melody before Zerang's astonishing drum solo. Next comes some intriguing microtonal dialogue, and the track ends with a version of Brötzmann's tribute to Fred Hopkins, "Master of a Small House," originally recorded on the Hatology disc Tales Out of Time. On "Yalla Kholoud", Brötzmann picks up his tarogato, lending the music just the right oriental timbre, but the track's high-point is Zerang's solo on darbouka - the Lebanese national instrument, Kerbaj explains in his liner notes - and cymbals, which comes at you from the speakers like an electric cobra. "A Daytime Nightmare" is of less interest, and "Banyan Revolution" is a blues for clarinet and assorted finger-rubbed platters, on which Brötzmann's emotional power is strongly to the fore, though it's Zerang who sounds most exploratory. The track itself sounds like an encore from a physically exhausting performance, filling it out to exactly an hour in length.
Vid Jerast | Paristransatlantic

"Live in Beirut" stanowi pamiątkę ubiegłorocznej wyprawy dwóch doświadczonych i cenionych improwizatorów, reprezentantów świata zachodniego, do Libanu, gdzie scena muzyki improwizowanej dopiero się tworzy. Początkującym, jak wiadomo, sprzyja szczęście, nie powinien więc budzić zdziwienia fakt, że miejscowa publiczność miała okazję obcować z muzyką na bardzo wysokim poziomie.
Myślę, że czytelnikom Diapazonu nie trzeba przypominać ani biografii Petera Brötzmanna, ani roli jaką muzyk ten odegrał w historii muzyki improwizowanej. Pominę je więc, a wstęp poświęcę jego partnerowi oraz okolicznościom powstania "Live In Beirut". Kompozytor i improwizator Michael Zerang urodził się w Chicago, ale jest Amerykaninem dopiero w pierwszym pokoleniu (jego rodzina pochodzi z Iraku). Jako profesjonalny perkusita zadebiutował w roku 1976. W ciągu trzydziestu lat nie ograniczał się wyłącznie do bycia muzykiem, ale był organizatorem i dyrektorem artystycznym kilku tematycznych serii koncertów, prowadził zajęcia i warsztaty w The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Dance Center of Columbia College, Northwestern University, MoMing Dance and Arts Center. Bywał aktorem, komponował na potrzeby filmu, baletu oraz teatru (trzykrotnie otrzymał nagrodę im. Josepha Jeffersona w kategorii Awards for Original Music Composition in Theater). Był członkiem co najmniej kilkunastu formacji, spośród których czytelnikom Diapazonu zapewne najlepiej znane są The Vandermark Quartet oraz Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet. Mniej lub bardziej regularnie współpracował z wieloma ważnymi muzykami ( z Fredem Andersonem, Joe McPhee, Matsem Gustafssonem, Evanem Parkerem, Johnem Butcherem, Fredem Lonberg-Holmem, Hamidem Drakem, Kevinem Drummem). Jego dyskografia liczy przeszło sześćdziesiąt płyt, z których co najmniej kilka zapadło w pamięć słuchaczy (choćby obsypany pochwałami album "Tales Out of Time" kwartetu Brötzmann/McPhee/Kessler/Zerang).
W lipcu 2005 r. Peter Brötzmann i Michael Zerang wzięli udział w piątym Festiwalu Muzyki Improwizowanej Irtijal. Duet zagrał podczas niego dwukrotnie, omawianą płytą dokumentując drugi z koncertów. 10 lipca 2005 w bejruckim teatrze "Monnot" muzycy przedstawili godzinny program podzielony na cztery części. Każda z nich prezentuje trochę inne oblicze duetu. Rozpoczynający płytę, blisko półgodzinny "Illusion of Progress" to dość typowa dla Brötzmanna, Aylerowska z ducha, ekstatyczna improwizacja, wywiedziona z nieco jarmarcznego tematu zaintonowanego na wstępie na tenorze. Następujące po introdukcji szorstkie i kostropate, ale jednak całkiem melodyjne solo saksofonu, dopełnione zostaje polirytmicznymi partiami Zeranga, którego dynamiczna gra uskrzydla saksofonistę i niesie go na skraj muzycznego szaleństwa. Gdy wydaje się, że granica zostanie przekroczona, następuje wyciszenie i Brötzmann przez chwilę gra delikatną, lekko bluesową frazą, by po chwili ukojenia, znów ulecieć w brudne przedęcia dewastujące perkusyjne ornamenty krzyżujących się rytmów. Na krótko wytchnienie przynosi misterne solo Zeranga, ale po kilku chwilach zostaje ono zbrukane piskiem Brötzmannowego saksofonu i muzyka ponownie zaczyna wrzeć. Dopiero po dwudziestu pięciu minutach ogień z wolna zaczyna przygasać, choć w ciągu ostatnich pięciu minut nagrania momentami znów bucha płomień i sypie iskrami na kończącą "Ilussion of Progress" powracającą melodię.
Utwór drugi "Yalla Kholoud" to natchnione free etno. Brötzmann gra na tarogato, zaś Zerang na darbuce. Początek nagrania to ekspresyjne solo Petera podbite korzennym rytmem, nadające muzyce lekkość, której brak jest w partii tarogato. Po mniej więcej trzech minutach Brötzmann się wycofuje i zostawia samotną darbukę, dzięki której Zerang zabiera słuchaczy w niespełna trzyminutową, wyimaginowaną podróż po Bliskim Wschodzie. Powracający Brötzmann przez chwilę łagodnie gra tęskną, słodko-gorzką melodię, by po kilkunastu sekundach przedęciami poprowadzić ją w nieopisane jeszcze przez etnografów rejony.
Utwór trzeci to szorstki i dosadny free jazz. "A Daytime Nightmare" należy do wrzaskliwego saksofonu i meandrycznej perkusji, współodpowiadającej za anarchiczny charakter utworu. Surowo brzmiący tenor Brötzmanna swobodnie wędruje po bezdrożach melodii, jednak nawet w chwilach jej nieobecności uwiązany zostaje specyficznym wielokształtem perkusyjnych łamańców. Nagle w całym tym pozornym chaosie saksofon odnajduje zachrypniętą, niemal soulową frazę, którą Zerang podbija ascetycznym, lekko wycofanym groovem i w ten sposób utwór powoli dobiega końca.
Płytę wieńczy "Banyan Revolution", kolejna muzyczna podróż po Lewancie. Klarnet niespiesznie wiedzie delikatny, jakby wyjęty z wyobrażeń o Bliskim Wschodzie temat, zaś Zerang delikatnym opukiwaniem i pocieraniem darbuki zagęszcza brzmienie. To doskonały finał naprawde niezłej płyty.
Z czystym sumieniem polecam "Live in Beirut". Płyta nie jest arcydziełem, nie jest też najlepszą pozycją w jakże obszernych dyskografiach obu artystów, jednak niewątpliwie warto ją poznać, bo sporo na niej emocjonującej i niebanalnie pięknej muzyki. Polecam ją szczególnie przeciwnikom Brötzmanna, bowiem jest ona dowodem na to, że opinia o jednowymiarowości jego gry jest z gruntu fałszywa i krzywdząca.

Czytelnikom chcącym kupić tę lub inną płytę wydaną przez Al Maslakh, sugeruję odwiedzenie strony internetowej wytwórni ( Płyta ma pewne niedociągnięcia od strony realizacyjnej, ale sama muzyka oraz naprawdę ładna okładka, powinny je zrównoważyć.

Tadeusz Kosiek | Diapazon

It must have meant a lot to the Lebanese free music scene to have Peter Brötzmann come to town. Beyond his status as one of the music’s founding fathers, his music made a tremendous personal impact on certain of the scene’s key players. He didn’t disappoint them; “Illusion of Progress,” the half-hour-long first piece on this live concert recording, is a great example of post-millennial Brötzmann. Wielding tenor sax, clarinet, and his beloved taragato, he roughly refashions several themes that should befamiliar to listeners of his recent efforts with the Tentet and his quartetwith Joe McPhee into new and vivid shapes. But this is a duo recording, andMichael Zerang is very much an equal partner. He was the ideal man to accompany Brötzmann on the occasion of his first visit to this Middle Eastern country. Not only is the Assyrian-American percussionist well versed in the sounds and grooves that issue from that part of the world — check out his spirited darbuka solo on “Yalla Kholoud,” and the spirited clarinet foray that follows — he is a resolutely aggressive player with a singular conception of his instrument. He commands a range of sounds from delicate bell tones to harsh but carefully shaped drum-skin scrapes; the latter stand out on “Banyan Revolution,” in which Zerang’s drawn-out groans inspire some especially soulful and melancholy playing from Brötzmann.
Bill Meyer | Signal to Noise

Certamente il disco che ha, inevitabilmente, destato per primo l'attenzione del pubblico e della stampa europea è Live In Beirut, pubblicato nel 2005, testimonianza dello splendido concerto tenuto nel luglio di quell'anno al Festival Irtjal da Peter Brötzmann e Micheal Zerang.
Già compagni d'avventura nel tentetto del sassofonista tedesco e nel quartetto con Joe McPhee e Kent Kessler che ha pubblicato per la Hatology lo splendido Tales Out of Time, Brötzmann e Zerang formano un duo che potremmo definire “ideale”, le cui caratteristiche lessicali permettono - pur nella evidente direzione espressiva - differenti combinazioni.
Anche in questo concerto, che deve avere destato notevole impressione nel pubblico libanese, la magia non fatica ad accendersi: l'urlo torrenziale del tenore di Brötzmann caratterizza la prima parte di “Illusion of Progress”, splendidamente assecondato dal drumming del compagno, esemplare nell'alternare la disarticolazione alla pulsazione più incisiva. Dalla lunga improvvisazione emerge a un certo punto il tema di “Master of a Small House”, tema che Brötzmann ha dedicato al compianto contrabbassista Fred Hopkins e che si può ascoltare anche nel già citato Tales Out of Time, a testimonianza del grande lirismo che anche un gesto sonoro radicale come quello del musicista tedesco può contenere.
”Yalla Kholoud”, giocata sulla dialettica tra il tarogato e la darbuka, il classico tamburo diffuso in tutto il Mediterraneo e nelle regioni mediorientali, segna quasi simbolicamente un gesto di apertura nei confronti dell'audience libanese, un momento di condivisione condotto con grande sensibilità e rispetto dai due musicisti. Solo così la rabbia, quella di un Brötzmann la cui storia sonora nasce dalle macerie della Seconda Guerra Mondiale, può essere percepita da una scena musicale che vive ancora tra le macerie e che attraverso l'espressione sonora più radicale [e quindi paradossalmente la più lontana culturalmente] riesce a esprimere analoga intensità di comunicazione: non a caso “A Daytime Nightmare”, con la sua convulsione che gli appassionati di libera improvvisazione europea hanno ormai metabolizzato, suona dopo “Yalla Kholoud” come un invito all'urlo collettivo.
La più breve “Banyan Revolution”, clarinetto e percussioni, chiude in modo quasi spettrale e vaporoso il concerto, consegnando agli ascoltatori uno dei documenti più vividi della recente produzione di Brötzmann, che porta l'esperienza del duo - naturale pensare a quello “storico” con Han Bennink - in un nuovo orizzonte di riferimento.
Enrico Bettinello | All About Jazz - Italia

Perhaps you do know it all. That is, you believe you know what Peter Brötzmann sounds like. Certainly, if you have been paying attention for the last forty years, his blasting machine gun saxophone has caused you to either turn up the volume or turn it way down.
To those who believe that “if it is too loud, than you are too old,” this duo record with Michael Zerang will not disappoint. But, if you are also a connoisseur of the subtleties of improvised music, there is a mother-load available here too. We can assume that Chicago-based drummer Zerang is the impetus for the agility and graciousness of this recording, but the setting plays a large part here. Recorded live in Beirut 2005, this was Brötzmann’s first visit, as he participated at the Irtijal Festival of experimental music.
It was also Beirut’s first encounter with the ferocity that is Brötzmann. His duo encounters with percussionists have been well documented, like the Nasheet Waits duo disc, Live At The ‘Bottle’ Fest (Eremite, 2005), his infamous collaboration with Han Bennink and performances with Hamid Drake, Sven-ÅkeJohansse and Raymond Strid. Although Zerang has collaborated with Brötzmann in his Octet, Tentet, and Quartet, this is his first duo performance. Zerang, a first generation Assyrian/American, has been a key player in the Chicago scene, playing with reedmen Ken Vandermark and Fred Anderson. His duo roles have included collaborations with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Tatsu Aoki, and legendary duets with fellow percussionist Drake.
The disc opens with a thirty-minute tenor/drums power surge that doesn’t catch its breath until nearly ten minutes in. When they do ease—the groundwork completed—a peaceful feeling envelopes the pair and a pathos is established. When Brötzmann sets his horn down fourteen minutes into the track, Zerang’s rolling solo introduces the blues theme ending of the piece.
The drummer takes up the darbuka, a traditional Lebanese instrument, on “Yalla Kholoud,” while Brötzmann chooses his taragato. The Eastern sounds produced, certainly familiar to the audience, must have also been quite shocking in the context of this free improvisation. The pair returns to tenor/drums for “A Daytime Nightmare” that, again, resolves itself in a cathartic blues. The disc ends with Brötzmann on clarinet and the subtle tones of Zerang’s skins.
In the context of this meeting and the audience’s first exposure to these skilled musicians, this was, indeed, a historic encounter.
Mark Corroto | All About Jazz

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