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Peter Brötzmann Has Died, Aged 82
Christian Eede , June 23rd, 2023 13:18

The legend of free jazz died peacefully in his sleep at home in Germany

Peter Brötzmann, the pioneering musician whose playing of the saxophone made him a key figure of European free jazz, has died at the age of 82.

News of his passing was confirmed by his label, Trost, as well as his collaborator Heather Leigh, who said that he died peacefully in his sleep at home in Wuppertal, Germany, on Tuesday night (June 20).

Born in Remscheid, Germany, in 1941, Brötzmann studied visual art and began making music in his teenage years. He taught himself to play saxophone and clarinet, and took inspiration from US jazz icons such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis.

In the mid-'60s, Brötzmann started playing as part of a trio with double bassist Peter Kowald and drummer Sven-Åke Johansson. Rejecting the dominant rhythmic and melodic constraints of a lot of the jazz music of the time, he opted to explore a more experimental path in free jazz. His first solo record, For Adolphe Sax, arrived in 1967, with one of his best-loved works, Machine Gun, following a year later.

Further records, both solo and with various collaborators, followed through the '70s, with Brötzmann famously experimenting with playing his saxophone while it was submerged in a river at one point. In the '80s, he formed the jazz supergroup Last Exit, together with Ronald Shannon Jackson, Bill Laswell and Sonny Sharrock.

Brötzmann released more than 50 records over the course of his career, and collaborated with the likes of Cecil Taylor, Keiji Haino, Derek Bailey and Mats Gustafsson. His last full-length solo record, Philosophy Of Sound, came out in 2020.