Peter Brotzmann: Vision Festival 16, June 8, 2011
Brötzmann came in on alto, and his tone cut like a razor into the cushion of sound. He moved at high speeds, with patterns that might have been bluesy in other contexts, as Adasiewicz switched to a more traditional grip to spin out ethereal patterns. He then turned to bowing the vibes' edge to make ringing, crystalline backdrops behind the saxophone. There was a lot of variety in the effects he could get, from chugging machine-like grooves to intricate, exotica-tinged lines.
The two had an easy, intriguing chemistry in their improvisation. There seemed to be interesting structures at times that enabled one to serve as a foundation for the other's solos. Adasiewicz started by laying out an intricate repeating line to form the hypnotic palette, then adding subtle evolutions and changes as Brötzmann entered, with a mantra-like cry.
Their third number opened with an unbelievable peal of sound, a long, high peacock cry from Brötzmann's clarinet. At times, the saxophonist played like he wanted to strangle his instrument, shaking out strange and ethereal tones on clarinet. This led to a slow ruminative pattern from Adasiewicz that, in concert with Brötzmann's Eastern-tinged tarogato, somehow called to mind sacred music from the Himalayas, before the tenor returned. This was some of the best interaction of the night, with Brötzmann unleashing an astonishing storm of reed-bitten screams in reaction to the hypnotic undulations of the vibraphone.
The duet form seemed to give the saxophonist a kind of wide open palette that he relished. It was the first time the two musicians had played together, and in some ways, it provided a slight (but necessary) relief from the intensity of the first set and the sonic hurricane to come. Adasiewicz provided both a responsive and ever-changing soundscape for Brötzmann to blow over. At the same time, the atmosphere in this set was somewhat more ruminative and introspective.
Pulverize the Sound Abrons Art Center Main Stage
New York, NY
June 8, 2011
The lone non-Brötzmann act of the night was the electric improvisational punk-metal band Pulverize the Sound, featuring trumpeter Peter Evans, electric bassist Tim Dahl, and drummer Mike Pride. A noisy collaboration featuring forward looking songs written by all three artists, the band featured intricate rhythms and dizzying blasts of unusual sounds. The volume alone dwarfed even Brötzmann and Co., as the heavily amplified instruments flooded the hall.
Evans, for one, does the same near-illegal things to trumpet that Brötzmann does to sax. With a seemingly endless supply of fearsome vocalizations and extended techniques, his playing pulls the instrument far beyond its jazz and classical roots. His performance at the Abrons featured deep metal rocker growls, skipping electric blasts, and, perhaps most impressive, a titanic display of circular breathing.
This last took place over the final song of the night. For the entire ten minute-plus tune, Evans played a continuous noterising in pitch, but uninterrupted by a single normal breath. As he played, Pride and Dahl interrupted at apparently predetermined intervals, playing unison rhythmic lines together without warning. The result was a very cool jump-cut effect mixing warbling bass effects with hardcore drums, on top of that dark, almost forgotten sustained drone. Powerful, exhausting, and impressive, they set the tone appropriately for the end of the night.
Peter Brötzmann Quintet
Abrons Art Center Main Stage
New York, NY
June 8, 2011
Between sets, the organizers spoke about Brötzmann's career and achievements. As the audience applauded they called for the saxophonist to come out and say a few words. Somewhat bemused, Brötzmann came to the stage, and held up both hands. "Okay, guys," he said, surprisingly soft-spoken. "That's good enough." He thanked the many musicians who had come to play with him that night and the audience, noting that when it came to embracing creative music, "you're the most important part."
Then it was time for music again, with Brötzmann back with his tenor alongside the formidable forces of Chicago saxophonists Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams. Two other longtime Brötzmann conspirators, Kent Kessler and Paal Nilssen-Love, rounded out the band, on bass and drums respectively.
The band opened up with Vandermark on clarinet, Williams on alto, and Brötzmann on tenor. The three unleashed a swell of unrelenting sound, with each dominating his own distinctive register. Williams took over as a soloist, spitting out lightning runs, before Vandermark joined him. Then Brötzmann also stepped in, with a titanic accenting scream that carried some kind of meaning.