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Live From New York

Arrington De Dionyso, Mary Halvorson, Liturgy, Sightings, Peter Brotzmann & Pulverize The Sound

By Published: July 2, 2011
When Brooklyn black metallers Liturgy opened for The Ex at (le) Poisson Rouge a few months back, the gathered audience was relatively small. This local neighborhood show was different, being the record release celebration for their Aesthetica (2011), on Chicago's Thrill Jockey label. What can only be described as hype appears to have engulfed the combo, coupled with the controversy surrounding their upsetting of the mainline metal community with their apparent intellectualizing of the form. This is all words, to a certain extent. Simply listening to the music doesn't prompt such difficulties of definition, particularly to those prone to wide-ranging aural activities. The problem apparently lies in the attitude of main man guitarist and singer Hunter Hunt-Hendrix (not a name to avoid the wry uplifting of an eyebrow), who allegedly has a penchant for penning essays on the state of the music, when he should be perhaps out there rocking. All of this sounds like kneejerk overreaction from a closed community, but Liturgy is almost asking for the attention by deliberately flirting with the genre, at the same time as desiring the so-called sophistication of the experimental noise-monger.

Laughing all this off, perhaps what should be addressed is the fact that Hendrix's voice was, when the band chose to play songs, much too high-pitched for this deep-core unleashing of Satanic spirituality. It was a limited yowl with a raging-child frequency, fine for a few outings, but ultimately it would have been preferable for a greater ratio of instrumentals. This, when the twinned lead guitars and lone bass were rammed into colliding shapes, was when Liturgy sounded at its most powerful.

The Brooklyners also suffered from following Sightings, a trio from the same borough, who seem to just get down and subject their grind to all manner of jagged electronic doctoring without any self-consciousness. The trio's pieces gave the impression of possessing an improvised danger, even if they were, in reality, preordained. They had just the right amount of un-togetherness, teetering on the edge of fragmentation, yet capitalizing on the tensions this created. Liturgy, by comparison, offered little space to move.


Peter Brötzmann/Pulverize The Sound
Abrons Arts Center
June 8, 2011

Each year, the Vision festival bestows lifetime achievement recognition on an artist (by definition a veteran) who has made a significant mark on the free jazz landscape. For their sixteenth edition, eyes have turned to Germany, and the recipient is reed man Peter Brotzmann
Peter Brotzmann
Peter Brotzmann
b.1941
reeds
, surely one of the form's most extreme practitioners. This 70 year-old has always emphasized his stamina in the blurting wall-of-sound realms, but he's also partial to the occasional bout of calm reflection. When a player's core revolves around the grizzled macho howl, what happens when he becomes a septuagenarian? Brötzmann's response is to arrive straight from the airport and proceed to play three sets of music, only taking a brief break while the young Pulverize The Sound trio displayed how they doubtless hold him as one of their chief influences.

The evening's theme was one of unusual lineups. The opening quartet set featured a drummer-less combo with two bassists—William Parker
William Parker
William Parker
b.1952
bass, acoustic
and the less-expected Eric Revis
Eric Revis
Eric Revis
b.1967
bass
—and Brötzmann partnered with equally versatile horn man Joe McPhee
Joe McPhee
Joe McPhee
b.1939
reeds
. Even though the front line took a predictably rugged approach, there were many instances of holding back for contemplation, with the bass back-liners becoming the front line, themselves switching responsibilities for bowing and plucking possibilities. This was an establishing motif for the night, and the following duo performance really shook the sensibilities.

Even though Brötzmann was aiming for the marathon session, the night's second set allowed him to pause in the creation of raging cries. A duo with the Chicagoan vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz
Jason Adasiewicz
Jason Adasiewicz

vibraphone
was naturally spacious, although still startlingly forceful. Adasiewicz is surely the most physical vibes-striker I've ever witnessed. He's taken his technique into the furthest reaches, using his entire body to fuel the force of each rhythmic blow. His manner is highly percussive yet nimble, possessing the emphatic thrust of a bluesman, as he's stamping feet on his too-fragile-looking sustain pedal. Adasiewicz also concentrated more than most on the bowing potential of his instrument, creating an entire sequence of hovering shimmer, nudging Brötzmann towards a less burred tone.


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