Peter Brötzmann/Toshinori Kondo/Massimo Pupillo/Paal Nilssen-Love, Vienna Fluc Wanne, 10 March 2009

Wow, this was a really spectacular evening’s entertainment. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Brötzmann play over the last three years, but I have to say that this was probably the finest of the lot. On this occasion everything just fell perfectly into place, resulting in a non-stop 90-minute tour de force of overwhelming power and intensity.

For non-stop is what it was. No short pieces, no interval, just one endless oceanic tidal wave of brutally organised sound. Nilssen-Love (drums) and Pupillo (bass guitar) were a rhythm section to take your breath away, ceaselessly inventive and frequently locking into a lashing, irresistible groove. Kondo was a vital, turbulent presence on trumpet, his squalls of sustain often fighting for supremacy against the forceful blowing of the saxophonist, whose looming and thunderous playing is still unparalleled.

Total improvisation of this kind is extraordinary to listen to and, equally, to watch. You find yourself wondering, how do the players know when to take it up, take it down, drop out, start, stop? Answer: they listen to each other in real time, they respect each other, they know how to interact with one another for maximum power and impact. This is the kind of awareness that only comes with years of intuition and mutual understanding. It’s the one thing that makes improvisation such a vitally important and creative act.

Kudos to all those people who turned out for this concert, a nice mix of young hipsters and grizzled old jazz fans (I’ll leave you to decide which of these groups I fall into). The latter didn’t seem particularly comfortable amid the Fluc’s distressed concrete aesthetic, but they came anyway because they know what magic this music is capable of conveying. What annoys me are the hordes of avant rock and noise fans who like to see themselves as in thral to the way out and the extreme, yet wouldn’t cross the street to see a performance of free jazz or improv (in the unlikely event that they even knew it was taking place at all). Such people are merely ignorant of the fact that this music serves up sonic extremity and wildness of a kind that nothing in the rock world has ever come close to emulating.

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