Peter Brötzmann & Jason Adasiewicz: Delaware, Ohio, September 9, 2012
Ohio Wesleyan University
September 9, 2012
Halfway through their 13-concert North American mini-tour, German saxophonist legend Peter Brotzmann and vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz walked into a crowded Jemison Auditorium on the Ohio Wesleyan campus. Would the pair adjust and restyle their approach to 'free jazz' for the majority college audience? To quote Brötzmann, "Nay, nay."
With one huge inhale, he blew into his faithful taragato (a wooden reed instrument, sort of a cross between a clarinet and soprano saxophone), dispatching his signature roar and rumble. Adasiewicz, with two fistfuls of mallets, raced to accompany his partner. At 71, the saxophonist shows no signs of diminished energy. He continues to take no prisoners, nor play down to his audiences. The hard shell of this sound is at first quite off-putting, but once cracked the meat of the sound is quite sweet.
The pair first performed together in New York last year. Brötzmann's fondness for duets with drummers like Hamid Drake, Han Bennink, and Paal Nilssen-Love was certainly satisfied here. Adasiewicz, a former drummer approaches his instrument with an audacious and forceful style. His sweat-flying hammering mallets are a complete contrast to the image of Milt Jackson's buttoned-down tuxedo approach. Adasiewicz can go toe- to-toe with Brötzmann's barrage, but he also seemed to bring out the lyrical side of the great man.
After applying a jackhammering series of ringing notes on the second piece, Adasiewicz and the red-face Brötzmann, who was blowing vibrato notes into his alto saxophone, settled (post-climax) into a very quiet blues ending. It was as if their call-and-response were working itself into this contrastingly gentle resolution.
The vibraphonist often substituted cello bows for mallets, sawing some ringing tones from his steel frame or pounding the bow sideways across the keys for effect. He even used hands and fists to beat notes from his vibraphone, all the while keeping time on the wooden stage with his feet.
What can be described as initial harshness began to reveal its sensitivity. With tenor in hand, Brötzmann delivered the breathy notes of Lester Young while summing up some 75 years of jazz, before ascending through John Coltrane's and Albert Ayler's stratospheres. His dynamic control, and oft-copied articulation, are a language most free jazz energy players have studied. In person, his commanding presence looms very large.
At the conclusion of the evening, after the introductions and ovation, the energy in the room remained. It was as if the storm had passed, but the landscape would be forever changed.