Taken from the recent Catching Ghosts album, recorded live at the November 2022 Jazzfest Berlin, the trio of German reedman Peter Brötzmann, Moroccan guembri player Majid Bekkas and Chicago-based drummer Hamid Drake tear lesser world music a new one with “Chalaba.”
The merger of the Gnawa music that Bekkas brings to the forefront with his vocal and guembri (a type of bass lute) performance and Brötzmann and Drake’s longstanding collaborative advancing of international free jazz is, oddly enough, a now-familiar genre. In the past three decades, Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp have worked with Gnawa musicians and Catching Ghosts is Brötzmann’s third foray into the field.
On the 16 minute “Chalaba,” with their syrupy call and response of thrumming strings and drum beats, Bekkas and Drake guide and coax Brötzmann into staid, even muted, commentaries from his horn. Unique in the sense that Brötzmann is best known as a player that would blow so hard that he would literally spray blood into the audience during his 1960s performances. The rollicking “Chalaba” serves up its own kind of baptism, sans body fluids, and is a worthy listen to hear three top-flight players soaring in musical communion, captured live one night here on earth.