The Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet: Concert For Fukushima Wels 2011

Eyal Hareuveni By

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The Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet

Concert For Fukushima Wels 2011

PanRec/Trost Records


In 2011 the Music Unlimited Festival in Wels, Austria, celebrated Peter Brötzmann's 70th birthday (as well as the festival's 25th year edition), under the title Long Story Short. Brötzmann was asked to curate the program and after two years of preparation he ended with 40 musicians, in new and not-so-new formations, who gathered to celebrate over four packed days what Brötzmann stands for—intensity, freedom, chin up and never give up, power and attitude.

On the last day of the festival Brötzmann, following his uncompromising aesthetic aspirations with social commitment and solidarity, organized a benefit concert related to the urgent topic of Fukushima, the Japanese city that suffered the consequences of March 2011 earthquake, and the following tsunami and radioactive pollution out of the malfunctioning local nuclear factory. All proceeds from this concert, as well from the DVD that documents the concert, are donated to two charities—Save Takata and Project Fukushima—which are implementing recovering activities in Fukushima.

Brötzmann, who keeps long standing personal friendships with key musicians from the Japanese improvised music community, invited to this concert four musicians—electric trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, who played with him on Die Like a Dog Quartet and Hairy Bones quartets, koto player Michiyo Yagi, who played with him in a trio with drummer Paal Nilssen-Love (Head On and Volda, Idiolect, 2009 and 2010), sound sculptor and guitarist Otomo Yoshihide, who grew up in Fukushima, and free jazz sax icon Akira Sakata to join the Chicago Tentet.

There are no empty words during this four-parts concert. The Tentet plus Kondo begins with a warm introduction before erupting in a typical powerful storm. Kondo's concise solos mark the direction for further energetic interactions till trumpeter Joe McPhee, in a duo with Brötzmann, steers the Tentet back to the theme. Later trombonistsJeb Bishop and Jeb Bishop take a similar role, enabling Kondo, saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and tuba player Per-Åke Holmlander to add their abstraction of the theme, and then Brötzmann leads the Tentet to a volcanic coda.

Yagi takes a prominent leading role on the second part of the concert. Her powerful stillness brings a new sonic palette to the Tentet—spare, patient and reserved interplay. Her contemplative, and often inventive, playing on the 21-string koto—using bow, sticks and objects—navigates the Tentet into structuring a nuanced, sensitive texture. Brötzmann answers the challenge and mid-piece joins Yagi in a soulful, sad tenor solo, soon to be followed by an intense and slow abstraction of it by the whole Tentet. Yagi concludes her part with a quiet, resonating solo on the 17-string bass koto, the only segment that remotely references traditional koto legacy. Yagi's beautiful and touching theme is mutated by guitarist Fred Lonberg-Holm and immediately after by a short explosive comment by the Tentet. This performance was released earlier in 2013 in the 5-disc box-set that documented the festival, Long Story Short—Curated by Peter Brötzmann (Trost, 2013).

Yoshihide, founder of the Project Fukushima charity, adds a new approach to sound and a violent energy. He is a master of sculpting sonic textures and in his hands the electric guitar is an infinite sound source. With imaginative usage of a tuning fork, immediate opening and shutting of the guitar toggle-switch, the guitar body and the pedals, he produces sustained, metallic, distorted walls of sounds. These abstract sounds first trigger like-minded articulations from Brötzmann Ken Vandermark on the clarinets and Gustafsson on the baritone sax and later of the whole Tentet in a thunderous, collective assault. Yoshihide closes this piece with a violent and fractured variation of a blues theme.

Sakata is one of the forefathers of the Japanese free jazz scene and like Brötzmann he is gifted with boundless, uncompromising energy. His intense playing offers a playful and joyful spirit, best captured in the heated sax duels with Brötzmann, Vandermark—first on tenor sax and later on clarinet—and Gustafsson. Amidst these muscular and fiery reeds talks, Brötzmann, who alternates on the baritone and alto saxophones, leads the Tentet for powerful short renditions of the elegiac theme that opened the concert. The concert ends when Brötzmann, Gustaffson, Sakata, and Vandermark stand in a close half-circle and repeat in unison this moving theme.

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