Another eye-opening, ear-cleansing evening of free music in Austria. The appetite of this country for this kind of music never ceases to astonish me. Here we were in a small, unfashionable city on a wintry Sunday night, with the streets pretty much deserted. But you walk to the Alter Schlachthof and suddenly you are in the middle of, what, 300? people, all of whom have paid a not insignificant sum to be there. The upstairs and downstairs bars are both lively and animated, there are well stocked record and CD stalls, then you walk into the hall and you find it is full to capacity with people listening attentively to two people making abstract sounds on a viola and a double bass. And that’s only the first of four full-length concerts this evening; all the others will be equally well attended.
One of the things I like about living in central Europe is that free jazz and improvisation are not regarded here as way-out, avant-garde, experimental or difficult musics. The people here just take this stuff in their stride, and that includes the music of Peter Brötzmann, who played in Wels in a trio with Michiyo Yagi on koto and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. I’m running out of superlatives to describe Brötzmann, so let me simply state that he was as intense as ever. Nilssen-Love, whom I had not seen play before, was a ferociously inventive drummer, while Michiyo Yagi was a total revelation on the koto. Together the three of them made a beautiful and utterly inspired racket.