Eddie Prévost & John Butcher with Peter Brötzmann's The Full Blast Trio
HaZira, Jerusalem and Levontin 7, Tel Aviv, Israel
December 18 and 20, 2007
The experimental music and sound festival HaPzura (Hebrew for the Diaspora) is the most forward-thinking festival today in Israel. In its latest edition, it attempted to find common threads in the pioneering work of the German electronic ensemble Mouse on Mars, the avant-garde band Faust, record player and electronics artist Philip Jeck, Israeli composers like Arik Shapira, and influential figures in the European free improvisation and free jazz scenes associated with Eddie Prévost, John Butcher and Peter Brötzmann.
Eddie Prévost at HaZira, Jerusalem
Although Brötzman is considered by many to be the movement's chief founder, drummer-percussionist and sound-alchemist Prévost is undeniably a major, seminal influence through his long-standing work with the ensemble AMM as well as his alignment with musical thinkers who have written about the art of non-idiomatic improvisation (see Prévost's book No Sound Is Innocent, Copula, 1995). Saxophonist John Butcher is another creative music- maker who focuses on the unlikely sounds that he can produce from his instrumentto him a limitlessly expressive metallic system of keys and pads that the rest of us simply categorize as a "saxophone." Recently, Prévost and Butcher collaborated on Interworks (Matchless, 2005).
Their concerts in HaZira in Jerusalem, and to a lesser extent in Levontin 7 in Tel Aviv (where the music competed against the dense atmosphere), were like an intriguing and deep meditation on the way we think or, more accurately are conditioned to think, about music. All conventional, assumed, and inherited notions were put to testhow a sound is produced, its durability, its elasticity, how the sound vibrates and expands in space and how it is organized in relation to other sounds, and how silence relates to sound, whether as an antonym or close relative. Prévost patiently and deliberately bowed a huge gong cymbal, scratching it with different objects, and managing to produce surprising sonorities, drones and overtones by simple yet surprising and inventive actions. Sometimes he added a drum resonator, then later bowed a resonating metal bowl that was placed on the skin of a snare drum, followed by the bowing of a small cymbal scraped over the skin of the snare.
John Butcher at HaZira, Jerusalem
During the set in Tel Aviv, Prévost expanded his arsenal of instruments into a set of tam-tams and a timpani drum. Butcher treated his tenor sax as a column of air and produced a series of short multiphonics, whispered and percussive sounds, in each instance exhibiting astonishing command and articulation. The two of them were attuned to each other's dynamics and sonic creations throughout these sets, and each of them added another dimension to the almost transparent yet compelling textures: as a listener the conclusion of each set felt like waking from a deep sleep or meditation, revitalized and enriched by the experiencing of music produced by such unique sounds.
The concert at Tel Aviv featured one of the best improvising outfits working now in Israelclarinet and saxophonist Yoni Silver's Quartet with Gabi Meir on bass, Yiftach Kadan on electric guitar and Haggai Frestman on drumsall current or former members of Israeli saxophonist Albert Beger's Quintet. Their set was a bit subdued this time, maybe due to taking the stage immediately after the quiet set of Prévost and Butcher. Still, it was an excellent demonstration of the multi-layered and cross-referential approach of this quartet, which throws into the "improvised stew" elements from free jazz, a guitar homage to Derek Bailey, fractured beats, real-time samplesand lots of humor. Out of the chaotic openings of each segment a new texture was built, sometimes reflected by an ironic brief passage sounding like an angelic (or perhaps demonic) choir of croaking frogs, then abandoning this allusion for a new thread that still managed to reference lightly the prior motive. A listener could only welcome the news that this ensemble is about to record its debut release.
Peter Brötzmann at Levontin 7, Tel Aviv
Nothing of the former sets hinted at the coming savage eruption of Peter Brötzmann's unbridled trio, "Full Blast." Brötzmann gained a justified reputation as one of the loudest players on this planet, but this trio, one of his most active outfits in the last two years, raises the stakes as even louderin fact, probably the loudest of all his outfits, past or present. Composed of "my best young friends," as Brötzmann called them, Swiss five-string electric bassist Marino Pliakas and fellow Swissthe Berlin-based drummer Michael Wertmüllerboth a generation younger than Brötzmann and both sounding and appearing to be well- versed in the more aspiring directions of metal music (see his recent self-titled debut album on the German label Jazzwerkstatt).
From the first violent riffs of Pliakas on the electric bass and the fervent barrages of Wertmüller on the drums it was clear that this trio lives by its name. The two erected a resistant, defiant wall of sound for Brötzmann who, undiscouraged, jumped right in and screamed with the bass clarinet, totally absorbed by the masses of sound and clearly enjoying it. The tsunami of sounds engulfed the enthusiastic, excited audience, especially when Brötzmann pushed gears and began to play the louder alto sax and his louder- still tenor sax, sometimes stopping for a few seconds to catch his breath or to let Pliakas and Wertmüller find new defensive positions before his next assault, quite often including in his voluminous weaponry short quotes from musicals! There was nothing to do but surrender to this amazing performance, expressing the artist's total, uncompromising belief in the sheer physical power of sound to transform the listenertons of deafening yet paradoxically blissful sounds that keep me smiling even now when I think about this exceptional trio. "Will the music ever end?" Not when played at this intensity!