Yes, I know that heading does a disservice to the other three fine musicians (for the record, they were Ken Vandermark on reeds, Marino Pliakas on bass and Michael Wertmüller on drums) who shared the Porgy & Bess stage with Brötzmann on Sunday night. But no matter how hard I try, I always end up thinking of Brötzmann’s collaborators as sidemen – the result, no doubt, of the sheer intensity of his playing.
Having said that, it was hard to ignore the contributions of the other three to this concert. Vandermark is a more recognisably post-Ayler saxophonist than Brötzmann is; his playing really swings, and acts as a perfect counterweight to the German’s unbridled ferocity. Pliakas was a mesmerising electric bassist, creating endlessly kaleidoscopic patterns of rhythm and making clever, sparing use of effects. And Wertmüller was a sheer wonder, playing with formidable power and attack. At times, this band sounded more like an avant rock outfit (descendants of Last Exit, perhaps) than anything from the world of jazz.
As for Brötzmann himself, well, the man continues to stun me every time I hear him play. He can be playful, as when he engages in a skittering, stop-start duet with Vandermark. He can be lyrical, as when he stands alone at the side of the stage and delivers a heartbreakingly tender solo. But above all, he is an unstoppable force of nature, kicking up a firestorm with every blast from his mighty lungs.