There is an interesting history to this release. Longtime collaborators Brotzmann and Drake recorded and performed with Mahmoud Gania, the late brother of Moukhtar Gania, over 20 years ago. Both Gania brothers are considered maters of the guembri, a 3-stringed bass lute of the North African Gwana people. This trio teamed up at the 2019 AngelicA festival in Italy for a 70-minute outing.
If anything, the energetic Brotzmann is somewhat restrained on The Catch Of a Ghost. His tones are still harsh and his lines are complex and relentless, but he gracefully shares the mix with Gania and Drake. Gania evokes a rounded set of sounds from his instrument, which sounds like a bouncy bass guitar. His rhythms are both solidly-structured and adventurous. Gania also sings and chants in the tradition of his region, which has a distinct Middle-Eastern flavor. This provides a stark yet serendipitous contrast with Brotzmann’s free blowing. As always, Drake is nothing less than a phenom, as he shifts seamlessly between more traditional percussion roles, circular rhythms that link up with Gania, and the open-endedness that goes along with being on stage with Brotzmann.
As Brotzmann stated, this grouping provides “three names, three cultures, three continents, three different concepts of time and timing.” The result is a tuneful and challenging set of songs and improvisations. Thumbs way up.