May 2005

Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet
May 21, 2005 • The Rivoli • Toronto
Report by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
There is not enough room on the stage so the 2 drum kits, an array of saxes, clarinets, pedals, a tuba, bass, cello, trumpet and trombone are set up on the floor. There are wires too, but no mics tonight, only the cello, being electric, is plugged in. The audience is mostly standing due to the shortage of space.

No one knows quite what we are about to hear, this is the Peter Brotzmann Tentet. We do know it will be intense, improvised, on the edge and alive.

Peter Brotzmann leads off on tenor, drums behind, rising. Everyone joins, electric cello solo takes on Peter Brotzmann’s lines. Ken Vandermark on sax and Joe McPhee on trumpet take prominence as the percussion tink tink tinks behind. The trumpet becomes a compulsive talker and Ken Vandermark plays complementary rhythmic patterns, an intense dialogue develops. The rhythm section gets funky — go with it.

Baritone, trumpet and then all join in but the sounds have slowed as if swimming through thick molasses. Time is ebbing away, a melting trumpet holds a high note while the tuba adds dark ominous tones underneath, then squeals. Other players drop out as Mats Gustafsson’s baritone emits all manner of sounds — rusty gate hinges protest, a steam whistle ends the shift, a prop plane flies over. One bent knee hits the air, charging forward, I believe he is now cursing through his instrument, shit!

The drums are silent.

The baritone barrel swings low to the floor, emitting a more familiar bari-tone in low bursts of escaping air, then squeals as Mats rises up on tiptoes — this ain’t no tiptoe through the tulips. Suddenly the trumpet is playing high and fast, valves tapping up and down, a series of rapidly articulated quickly stopped breaths, sounds like scampering mice. The baritone and the tuba and shouts! Drummers start again, percussion only. Sounds like screams.

Peter Brotzmann

What is it? It is here and now.

Per-Ake Holmlander

A huge crazy blast comes from Peter Brotzmann as the tuba player makes a face and the trumpet comes back in. Baritone blasts and drums reply. A sweep of the baritonist’s hand and the drummer’s next reply is an almost soft series of rolls. The baritone falls silent. Time for a reed replacement. He and Brotzmann must buy them by the case.

Jazz bass lines enter, another sax takes flight with the bass and drums and the others stand out the solo. The train blasts and all join back in frenzy.

I have nothing against electricity but this is a pure sound experience.

All is quiet except for one drummer playing one pair of cymbals, his sticks roam tapping all over the top, down to the edge and back to the middle, building more and more sound, rattling, snapping and rain on a steel roof. He adds one drum, playing on the rims and then directly with the hands, making quick forays back to the cymbals. He adds and builds and his sounds are added to by the other drummer.

A bass and cello duet evolves. The bass bows low and beautiful. The cello plays sweet and high. Peter Brotzmann brings in a mellow tone. Scribbling with his stick on the cymbal, the drummer creates the softly squeaky sound of a finger rubbing a windowpane on a rainy day.

Ken Vandermark is now playing bass clarinet and the tuba is purring like a very happy cat. A double purr, one sound with each exhalation and another with each inhalation. The cat mews and meows and pigeons coo.

Maybe it ain’t got that swing — but it sure is some-thing.

And that was the first segment of the one long improvised set, leaving behind a series of burst envelopes like split reeds on the floor.

Peter Brotzmann: tenor saxophone, clarinets, tarrogato
Ken Vandermark: soprano/tenor saxophones, clarinets
Mats Gustafsson: tenor/baritone saxophones
Magnus Broo: trumpet
Joe McPhee: trumpet, valve trombone, soprano saxophone
Per-Ake Holmlander: tuba
Fred Lonberg-Holm: cello
Kent Kessler: contrabass
Paal Nilssen-Love: drums, percussion
Michael Zerang: drums, percussion
We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
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