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The hypnotic cymbal, drum, and thudded string rhythms were levitational, spurring Brotzmann into an outrageously wild outburst of gigantic dimensions.
With William Parker and Hamid Drake Barnevelder Movement Arts Houston Texas May 11, 2003
The power exuding from Peter Brotzmann’s Die Like a Dog Trio never seems to ebb. It flows as one continuous current of electricity, lighting and igniting everything in its path. Brotzmann, together with William Parker and Hamid Drake, made Houston one of their stops on their 11-city North American tour. Even with the grueling schedule, their energy was at peak power on this night.
In typical marathon style, Brotzmann opened on tenor and moved to the sinewy high-pitched taragato with a lengthy dissertation of flooding proportions. He showed enormous stamina in spewing out wave after wave of impulses. The music appeared as a huge boulder rolling downhill at unstoppable speed as Drake set into motion his power drumming and Parker relentlessly stroked his bass. For over 35 minutes, the three were an incendiary fuse of explosive creativity.
This trio had a tender side as well; the ensuing selection was an introspective look at Parker delicately plucking the bass, Drake softly adding accents, and Brotzmann constructing a lovely melodic ballad on clarinet. These were the right ingredients to bring the crowd down from the super high to close the first set.
As could be expected, the second set opened with another barnburner. Drake began by finger-tapping his huge frame drum while chanting, and Parker adeptly manipulated a three-stringed West African instrument called the guimbri. Brotzmann heard the call and worked snake-charmer magic out of his taragato. The most exhilarating moments of the piece occurred when Drake and Parker entered into an extended mystical realm of droning bass and wildly exciting drum dialogue. The hypnotic cymbal, drum, and thudded string rhythms were levitational, spurring Brotzmann into an outrageously wild outburst of gigantic dimensions.
The band returned to traditional instrumentation and again slowed the pace with passionate variations spiraling from Brotzmann’s alto against the arco and pizzicato bass artistry of Parker. For a much-demanded encore, Parker played a Moroccan reed instrument called the retta, which created a doubly shrill sound in competition with Brotzmann’s taragato.
The event was draining for the audience but even more exhausting for the artists, who would be off to New Orleans in the morning for yet another performance of power music. Traveling with the band was Eremite Records producer Michael Ehlers. He has been recording it all and claimed most sets on the tour were exceptional.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.