I never got around to reviewing Peter Brötzmann’s two-night residency with vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz and drummer Steve Noble at the Pardon To Tu club in Warsaw last November, an event that happily for me coincided with a work visit to the Polish capital. Now is as good a time as any to revisit that occasion, since the saxophonist also turned up the other week at the Blue Tomato in Vienna, with Noble this time but without Adasiewicz.
Pardon To Tu was an excellent venue, staffed by friendly people and with a relaxed yet enthusiastic audience. The club was crammed to capacity on both nights, while the walls were decorated floor to ceiling with strikingly effective black, white and red posters giving the history of previous events at the venue. Moving along the corridor that adjoined the main room, I was able to take in those posters and marvel at all the wonderful artists that the club has hosted in its illustrious past. The backdrop of the stage, meanwhile, was covered with the names of hundreds of luminaries from the worlds of creative and experimental music (Peter Hammill being the only notable omission I could spot). The only downside to the place was the unwelcome presence of a dog, which the owners allowed to run uncontrolled around the place.
Ever since Brötzmann put the Chicago Tentet on ice, he’s been trying out new configurations and collaborators as a way of preventing the music from lapsing into predictability and routine, and this new trio is certainly an example of that. The Warsaw residency was the first time I had seen either Noble or Adasiewicz play, and both of them proved to be more than worthy foils for the sax legend. With Brötzmann kicking off strongly on alto, Adasiewicz was a gleeful presence on the vibraphone, the unusual timbre of the instrument forming warm clouds of invention that contrasted vividly with the saxophonist’s razor-sharp improvised lines. As for Noble, he was a formidably focused and inventive drummer, as was demonstrated in a thunderous duo passage with Brötzmann.
Both nights of the residency consisted of one long, 90-minute set, with pauses between the songs but no intermissions. This approach paid repeated dividends in terms of the trio’s intense and concentrated approach to free improvisation. Switching to clarinet, Brötzmann played a long jazzy solo that was as tender and beautiful as anything I’ve heard him play and cast the room into utter silence. Heading for the home stretch, Adasiewicz’s harsh metallic interventions prompted Noble into ever more pulsating activity while the saxophonist ripped the insides of his tenor to shreds.
Back at the Blue Tomato earlier this month, Brötzmann squared up to Noble for a truly engrossing evening of reeds and drums dialogue. I remain of the opinion, expressed last year in this review, that this duo form represents improvised music at its most elemental and dangerous. And anyone who heard the German rent the air of the Tomato’s hallowed back room that night with the warlike cry of his tenor and tarogato would surely think twice before disagreeing. Noble, meanwhile, picked up some irresistible rhythmic grooves in among the wow and clatter, the unerring dream logic of his percussion work harking back to his early days with Rip Rig & Panic.
It occurred to me while listening to this concert that, whereas the other four great reedsmen of our time (Braxton, Gustafsson, Parker and Vandermark) are all apt to launch into sections of circular breathing at one time or another, Brötzmann has always steered clear of the technique. Listening to the colossal intakes of breath that punctuate his playing, it’s not hard to understand why. Eschewing the heady spin and swirl that comes with the territory of extended soloing, Brötzmann’s playing remains firmly grounded in the earth, hewn from rock, soil and blood.