Ether column, June 2007

Not much doubt in my mind about the highlight of June’s concerts – an evening with the great German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann. The 66-year-old Brötzmann is one of the key figures in European free improvisation, taking the free jazz of American pioneers like John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman, stripping it of groove and swing and creating from it a new music of dense, swirling abstraction. Free improvising musicians can be heard on a wide range of instruments such as trumpet, guitar, piano and drums, but Brötzmann’s forte is the reed family, which sees him switching effortlessly between soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass saxophones, various clarinets and the Hungarian tarogato. At the tiny Blue Tomato club in March, Brötzmann whipped up a firestorm of fierce and intense blowing alongside one of his long-standing collaborators, the Dutch percussionist Han Bennink. His date at Porgy & Bess, on the other hand, is with his big band, the Chicago Tentet. With two other reedsmen, three brass and two strings players, and not one but two drummers to add to Brötzmann’s already fearsome aural assault, the Tentet is not a group for the faint of heart.

American singer and songwriter Carla Bozulich stops off at the Chelsea on the 18th to air her quirky, eccentric songs. Bozulich has been grafting away since the early 90s in a variety of guises, initially the angular post-punk of Ethyl Meatplow and the mournful country sound of the Geraldine Fibbers. Playing out under her own name since 2003, Bozulich’s first solo record was an experimental reinterpretation of a Willie Nelson album, The Red Headed Stranger. She really hit her stride, though, on 2006’s Evangelista, a challenging and bewitching set of songs which saw her write and record with the freaky denizens of Montreal’s Constellation collective, including members of Godspeed You Black Emperor and A Silver Mt Zion. Working with many of the same musicians on tour, Bozulich is sure to deliver a vivid and acute live performance.

Coming from another side of American songcraft, Magnolia Electric Co. are a vehicle for contemplative Ohio-born musician Jason Molina. Like Will Oldham, with whom he is often compared, Molina has a fondness for hiding behind aliases. His first outfit was Songs: Ohia, who released several albums of country-influenced rock before Molina began to record under the Magnolia Electric Co. moniker. Molina’s voice has deepened and weathered since those early Songs: Ohia records, while his guitar playing has become more assured and his lyrics have proved consistently emotive and heartfelt. In fact, Molina’s closest point of reference would be the classic 70s albums of Neil Young rather than any of the hordes of artists toiling under the alt.country label. Such niceties are likely to dissolve into insignificance, though, when Molina takes the stage.

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