Monday, December 8, 2008
Bitter Funeral Beer Band, Live in Frankfurt ’82 (w/ Don Cherry & K. Sridhar) / Live in Nurnberg ‘84 (Country & Eastern)
In 1981 Swedish percussionist Bengt Berger, having studied West African music in Ghana, distilled his experience, convened a band, recorded and released Bitter Funeral Beer on the storied ECM label. He then put together a motley touring version of the band, a sprawling, boisterous ensemble, and toured Europe. The band never cut another studio album, but thanks to German state radio we have two extant live recordings, recently released on Berger’s own Country & Eastern label. The earlier set features the horn and personality of Don Cherry, who recognized in the project and in the person of Berger a kindred spirit to his own efforts to fuse world music and the jazz tradition (see: Cherry’s Mu suite), as well as sarod player K. Sridhar. It shines with a sense of inclusiveness and joyous abandon. The Nurnberg date feels more ragged, but no less exuberant, a rollicking percussion party so celebratory that it’s hard to decide who was having more fun, the audience or the band. Both albums are warm, well-recorded, and engaging, a pair of worthy additions to the global-minded improvised canon.