Gigs, dance, art

June 7th, 2009: Peter Brötzmann – Kent Kessler – Joe McPhee – Michael Zerang

@instants chavirés

I’ve had some kind of a problem with Peter Brötzmann, in that whenever I heard him live he seemed to be doing whatever was expected of him, rote performances that came nowhere near what I had heard on some records from a long time ago. So I was reluctant to go, but seeing Joe McPhee was there as well changed everything: I’ve yet to see a poor performance from this guy.

I had been talking with a coworker lately about the difference between free jazz and free improvisation, which I guess was just begging to be proved clueless. This performance blurred those lines, of course. Kent Kessler and Michael Zerang where almost always in the thick of this performance, and probably were instrumental in that. Saying that the bass and drums provide the backbone is an old saw, but in that case it was not just true but went beyong that, I think they were raising the level of discourse to the point where the others just had to show up.

Brötzmann has had a tendency to play on autopilot in my experience, but this time he eschewed that to show me what the hype was all about. He went through his usual things, but even through that part seemed more involved, and he didn’t linger on that but instead went slower at times and overall showed the range he can go through when challenged enough. At last he lived up to the standard he himself set those many years ago.

Joe McPhee was standing aside most of the time, but every single time he dove into the fray was for the better. He played a small trumpet, a regular one and saxophone, but no matter the instrument he was just spot on. If anything, he seemed to leave too much room to the others, but that’s probably my being a fan speaking. I think he did bring the most free jazz colored contribution of the four, but this performance doesn’t boil down to label and he was open enough to blend in the general rewriting of rules going on. My appreciation for him went up a notch, because no matter how much I wished he had been more involved, I’m sure he was instrumental in bringing out the best out of his partners. I sure it’s not a coincidence he was playing with Brötzmann the day he finally lived up to his records and performances from a while ago.

June 13, 2009 Posted by | Music | , , , , | Leave a comment

August 29th, 2007: Sonic Youth / Peter Brötzmann & Mats Gustaffson

@la villette

Or the hell of expectations. At first I hadn’t planned to attend this gig, then relented for two reasons: someone I know was selling a ticket and Han Bennink was opening for them (with Peter Brötzmann). I still love Sonic Youth, but I don’t like crowds.

It didn’t start all that well for me, as Han Bennink could not make it and was replaced by Mats Gustafsson. I happen to like Gustafsson, but I was far more curious about Bennink, because I only heard a few things. I liked what Gustafsson did, even though I again failed to get Brötzmann; maybe I’m a lost cause. I think what I don’t like about him is that he’s either playing too fast or too slow for me. But that performance had its very good moments, they managed to really interact and play some interesting stuff. So I guess it turned out OK.

The first set of the main act was a long improvisation set where Sonic Youth were joined by Mats Gustafsson, Jean-Marc Montera and Michel Doneda; I had never heard of these two guys. I really liked it despite its shortcomings. There was first a gradual build up of a very nice wave of sound, then more rhythmic patterns eventually dissolving into other waves. It was a bit disappointing because I could not hear much of Gustafsson’s playing, and I thought SY were maybe a bit too cohesive compared with the others. But I should have know better: it must be real hard to play with their usual lineup and less known musicians at the same time, improvising to boot.

The second set was material from Daydream Nation and Rather Ripped. I like these records, but I never was very intrigued by hearing these played live. Too efficient maybe. The major exception is Hyperstation, but they didn’t segue into it after The Wonder, even though I really thought they were for a short while. Another expectation. I also hoped they would be at least as adventurous as usual, with their opening a Jazz festival. But it was the tamest show of theirs I’ve seen. I blame the material: maybe these songs are not open enough.

Their three guests were back for the encore, joining at the end of Expressway to yr skull, and they finally let loose and went into their more experimental mode with more feedback and assorted mistreatment of guitars. And Gustafsson was more assertive, even though Sonic Youth were doing their thing. So the gig ended on a high note for me, which was bittersweet.

August 30, 2007 Posted by | Music | , , , , , | Leave a comment