Long Story Short presents 5 CDs-worth of music from the Brötzmann-curated Unlimited 25 festival, held in Wels, Austria, in November 2011; three days of music: “not a retrospective but a representation of the contemporary musical spheres that Brötzmann and his comrades are investigating today”.
The set documents 18 performances that brought musicians from Brötzmann’s native European free scene together with collaborators based in Chicago, New York, Japan and Morocco.
There are two long pieces here by the Brötzmann Chicago Tentet (both with significant guest artists), one by Tentet offshoot reed trio Sonore, and one each from the plugged-in Brötzmann-led groups Hairy Bones and Full Blast. But Brötzmann doesn’t play on every performance: there are various ad-hoc groupings, an outing for Caspar Brötzmann’s Massaker, and substantial solo statements by pianist Masahiko Satoh and Keiji Haino (electric guitar and voice).
At 21’44”, the Haino solo is a mature and at times surpassingly beautiful piece which, though it peaks in incandescent intensities, shies away from extremes of expression. Satoh’s piece is shorter, a bold, imperiously fluid elaboration of his function within the monumentally architectural trio completed by Brötzmann and drummer Takeo Moriyama. That trio is also featured here, cementing their rapport just four days before recording their superb studio album, Yatagarasu (Not Two).
Long Story Short focuses intensely on Brötzmann’s present creative milieu. There are no nostalgic reunions here with the likes of Han Bennink or Evan Parker, except for one notable exception: it’s nice to see Brötzmann put any lingering animosity over the Iron Path production debacle aside to play alongside his one-time Last Exit colleague Bill Laswell. They share a stage with Maāllem Mokhtar Gania (Guembri) and Hamid Drake (drums) in a wide-ranging 50-something minutes of patented Laswell free/fusion. Brötzmann lays out when the rhythm locks down on a Gnawa trance groove, but returns to worry away at the rhythmists until they collapse, splendidly, into feverish free play.
Gania also features in a quartet with Chicago Tenteters Joe McPhee, Fred Lonberg-Holm and Michael Zerang, and again his vocal and elastic pulse dominate. Zerang, perhaps more so than Drake, proves Gania’s ideally empathetic rhythm foil. Lonberg-Holm initially counters their bounce with a screechy/scratchy scree of noise, but he ends the piece with a simply phenomenal cello solo. McPhee, holding back before the climax, adds licks of Ayler-love.
In another new context, Brötzmann is partnered with the established, young American ‘rhythm’ team of Eric Revis and Nasheet Waits. Contrabassist Revis isn’t shy of pumping up an already plummy string tone with funk inflections, fleshing out a rumbling gut-pulse around which Waits detonates all kind of percussive fireworks. Yet they also swing low, with gravelly bowed bass and rumbling mallet-work shadowing Brötzmann at his most tender.
Although muscularity is a defining characteristic of Brötzmann’s scene, there’s plenty of light and shade on offer. An ad-hoc sextet featuring the vibraphone of Jason Adasiewicz is particularly thoughtful, while the subdued intensity of Michiyo Yagi (koto), Okkyung Lee (cello) and Xu Fengxia (zither) stimulates with quasi-erotic intensity.
Playing with the Brötzmann Chicago Tentet—in a concert for the victims of the Fukushima disaster, which is presented in full on Trost’s Concert for Fukushima DVD—Yagi draws the collective maelstrom into a rich threnody of stress textures, and spins them out in a devastatingly beautiful coda. There’s nothing else like this in the Tentet catalogue. Likewise the Tentet’s earlier performance with Danish reedsman John Tchicai (who, sadly, had just eleven months to live). Tchicai imparts his own ritualistic touch to the music, chanting: “Everything can happen from one second to the next”.
A double trio setup mirrors the DKV Trio of Hamid Drake, Kent Kessler and Ken Vandermark with Mats Gustafsson, Massimo Pupillo and Paal Nilssen-Love. The sextet engage in prolonged deep listening before locking horns. Gustafsson also matches his reeds and live electronics with Dieb13’s turntablism and Martin Siewert’s guitar, electronics and ring modulator in a (relatively) short, woozily abrasive haze of machine static, lung-skronk and guitar-grind.
The chronologically-ordered set ends with a quarter-hour of Caspar Brötzmann Massaker on magnificently, dourly belligerent form: distorted-guitar striations from Peter Brötzmann’s son framed by pummelling rhythm hits from his current trio partners.
Brötzmann is always re-contextualising his music. It’s a truth explicitly acknowledged in the title of Long Story Short, and Eklisia Sunday, recorded in Turkey with local ensemble Konstrukt, began another new chapter just six months before Wels. As a current state-of-Brötzmann’s-art précis, however, this box set is about as complete as you could reasonably expect.
Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet – Concert for Fukushima, Wels 2011 DVD.
Konstrukt feat. Peter Brötzmann – Eklisia Sunday.
Full Blast & Friends – Sketches and Ballads.
Sonore – Cafe OTO/London.