There is little in our different relationships to great cities that is not ultimately musical in some way or another, be it the immersion into the rhythmical polyphony of architecture set against hundreds of passing cars and people, the indescribable drone of the massive coming together of sounds and noises over vast distances, or the strangely silent corners one finds a few steps off high-traffic avenues; whatever our place in it, the city is always already noise, a deluge of electricity that is often as life-affirming as it is life-negating, a kind of infinity that can perhaps be only understood by means of an improvisational state of mind. My Brooklyn gives listeners the tools necessary for this spontaneity, weaving an immense overview of how we speak of all those spaces and how they speak of us.
Connors is here at perhaps one of his most ‘extrospective’ moments, where many times silence is immediately followed by a sudden sequence of playful picking at high volume, creating the feeling of being peacefully adrift but at the same time constantly alert. It is rare to find this sort of relaxing tension, and it is usually only present in music that is free of any theatricality, a music that is the full expression of the player without recurring to conventions of form and content. At times it seems that it is rare even in improv, if only because the conception of it as merely a technique is recurrent. That’s why it’s so satisfying to listen to My Brooklyn and find oneself unable to pull away from it, to pull away from a conversation in which there is no need for the masks and personas: by temporarily erasing specific social contexts the dialogue becomes bare and reflective, almost… barbaric in its mirroring of the wildness that underlies the life of the city as its rules are bent and broken once and again to the enjoyment of some, the indifference of others, and the utter perplexity of those who look on from the outside. If read in the key of music, the analogy hopefully captures effectively the way in which this album draws the listener in, freeing her from the expectation of what music is or isn’t as she crosses the invisible line that divides the urban from its other.
“Stadtluft macht frei”, said a centuries-old German phrase (which translates as “the air of the city makes you free”), one that was used in the context of liberating the self from the burden of small-town identity, a dislocation of the communal in favor of the individual, approaching a kind of rebirth within the fiery excitement of being no one. My Brooklyn could be heard, in this sense, as giving back to the city, as a reappropriation of one’s own rhythm from the power of the meaningless, a deep exhalation of that very air that now becomes contaminated with a trace of history. In the sparsity of Connors’s playing we can find the city essentialized, its streets slowed down to a crawl as in a moment of revelation when all the chaos not only makes sense but is also a reflection of a mood, of an emotional projection that seems to react to every thought. It is, then, a background as much as it is an audience, and this is why a recording like this can’t be anything but live, an act of communication where creativity is shared as a gift that belongs to all who are willing to stop and listen to one of their own, ‘lost’ as they all are in the endless sensations born from steel and concrete. It might be Connors’s Brooklyn, but the people in the audience conceivably understand what every distant reverbed note signifies, how the city becomes a series of musical gestures, a flow of sounds. It is fortunate for the rest of us that the artist’s playing is so entrancing, so utterly flexible, that it is not that hard to let our imaginations run wild across ethereal avenues that could be, some other time, ours too.
Like many a Connors album, this is not easy to pick up for a first listen, and there are better starting points elsewhere (Night Through, basically). However, if you’re already familiar with this kind of improv, this will surely be a good addition to your collection, since My Brooklyn is a cityscape completely open to many an interpretation as well as many a repeated play. (David Murrieta)
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