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Live Reviews

Peter Brötzmann’s Full Blast Trio with Ken Vandermark at Cafe Oto in London

By Published: October 20, 2010
Vandermark's presence altered the balance of the band so that this wasn't just Full Blast and guest, but actually another, different entity. At times they drove each other to apocalyptic frenzy, the German's tenor interweaving in the upper partials with the Chicagoans clarinet to create music of the gods, phrasing and breathing together before their paths diverged, attesting to prolonged shared experience in Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet and Sonore, the band which gives independent life to the reed section from the larger group. Vandermark's penchant for organization bleeds into whatever he does, imbuing even seat of these pants extemporizations with structure, sometimes through his riffing, but others through a loose fugue like echo. However it was still very much the German's band and it was he who was responsible for cuing simultaneous endings, almost levitating as he swept his saxophone towards the ceiling then suddenly down to close proceedings.

In combination Wertmüller and Pliakas demonstrated a strong dynamic sensibility: their start to the second piece featured elongated pauses between bursts of sound, before the on/off tattoo began to coagulate. Drums and bass were as much felt as heard. In particular Pliakas, whose bass fed into an amplifier stack which towered over him, utilized an army of effects pedals to vary the gravity of his extreme textures. But even here there was light and shade. For the beginning of the third piece, the bassist used a vibrating toy to create a high pitched humming buzz, over which the reeds essayed a rubato ballad.

Wertmüller must be one of the most powerful drummers around: the floor reverberated much of the time in sympathy with their playing reaching about 6.5 on the Richter scale. However rhythm section would be a misnomer for this pairing as they don't deal in meter in the conventional sense. Soundscapes more reminiscent of industrial processes or an oncoming locomotive than jazz bass and drums were the norm, giving the music a distinctive primal texture, and acting as backdrops rather than overt interaction with the front line. Even the Swiss was more likely to concentrate on a single part of his kit, starting a roll on his snare at the limit of audibility and then gradually increasing the volume until it roared like a tidal wave.

Four collectively generated improvisations made up an intense hour's show which was followed by a ten minute encore which captured the set in microcosm. Starting with overblown dissonance from Brötzmann's alto and Vandermark's clarinet braided into one voice, the trajectory was towards transcendence and an impassioned climax, ended abruptly on Brötzmann's cue. All the initial descriptors held good, but a few more words come to mind to sum up the evening: exhilarating, focused, cathartic. Fantastic.

Photo Credit

Andy Newcombe

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