The Chicago Tentet
Oslo Jazz Festival
18th August 2005
BLÅ, Oslo, Norway
Well, the organizators of the Oslo Jazz festival were a bit hesitating to get the Tentet. They were afraid that the audience would be only a few free jazz freaks, and that it would be not worth investing all this money for one gig. They were very wrong. Some people were travelling by plane to see this gig (I was one of them), not only within Norway, but also from Sweden. I arrived one hour before the gig to have a nice seat (there were some chairs, but also much space left for standing audience), and when the time was up, it was packed. I was sitting at the second row, three meters from the stage, ready for a full brainwash.
Unfortunately, I can't replay the whole gig in my head again. But some moments got so intense, that it left some very clear impressions. I was afraid that this gig would be some kind of a big noisy chaotic ensemble (I was ready with some ear protection, which I didn't use at all). The guys came on stage, without any notes, no papers, no nothing, so I started shrinking in my chair...
What a surprise. The concert took off progressively, building up. The impression I got was that each musician seemed to know what they had to do, and when. So I was surprised at the end, when a Tentet fan told me that it was fully improvised, nothing orchestrated. Those guys were working like some incredible ensemble, like they had an invisible conductor. Or maybe, it was themselves who were conductors, taking turns one after the other, following a triggering pattern, and absolutely nobody was left aside in the process. It was like having a very suspenseful history unfolding in front of us.
I listened carefully to every musician, even in the middle of the storm. How Paal inserted a rhythm pattern into the most paroxysmic parts, immediately triggering replies from Ken who was standing in front of him, keeping the suspense, like a surfing wave which keeps on rolling, keeps on carrying you, until it was melting together into another sequence. Peter was sometimes standing with his eyes closed, and I was thinking how it must be to stand there, between Mats and Ken, both giving a pulse on baryton sax and Kent holding a bass frenzy right in his back, surrending to the wave power. Magnus had the nerve to show up on top of the storm, improvising the most powerful trumpet playing, giving the audience a voice to follow. What an addition of positive energies, thrown just plain towards us.
The Tentet also broke down spontaneously to trios, duos or solos, quiet, beautiful, time to take a breath as much for the audience as for the other non-playing musicians... who became then attentive listeners as well. Fred with his cello was pure wizardry, very difficult to describe his playing, which seems a flow between electronica (he was using some pedal effects), classical and noise. Fantastic. Joe offering us a soprano piece, Åke stretching the ears of the audience with a hectic tuba monolog, Paal and Micheal lauching a new sequence with a diabolic percussion/drum trance. It was just a few examples of what you can get when you gather amongst the best free jazz musicians you can find at the moment on the same stage at the same time.
Never I felt like one musician was forcing his way between the others, or left behind. On the contrary. It seemed like by some magical effect, it was always a space free for everyone to sneak in. Even in the most intense moments. The performers were stepping in and drawing back at turns, following some schemes just known by themselves, maybe just following their intuition.
After the gig, I saw several people that had as big eyes as me. Everyone I talked to agreed that it was one of the most incredible gigs they had ever seen.
Personnel: Peter Brötzmann: reeds; Ken Vandermark: reeds; Mats Gustafsson: saxophones; Joe McPhee: trumpet, saxophone; Magnus Broo: trumpet; Per-Åke Holmlander: tuba, trombone; Fred Longberg-Holm: cello; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums/percussion; Michael Zerang: drums/percussions; Kent Kessler: double-bass.