Kondo’s first up. After an opening fanfare for horns, the Tentet launches into a percussive maelstrom, all whipped along by Fred Lonberg-Holm on caustic electric guitar, with Kondo’s electrified trumpet at the eye of the storm. At the cooling, Brötzmann strolls in from his spot stage left, to join Joe McPhee in a brass-backed duet. Kondo them plays more impressionistically with trombonist Johannes Bauer, before the next collective brew-up. It’s a powerful, energising set.
Kondo alone among the Tentet’s guests has strong ties to the bandleader’s past work, having played numerous dates with Brötzmann in both Die Like a Dog and Hairy Bones. Yoshihide, Yagi and Sakata all draw new colours from his ensemble palette.
There’s a constant flux of forces at play throughout this long and intense concert: each of its four sets runs to over 45 minutes and covers a range of moods. The set featuring Michiyo Yagi on kotos coaxes the Tentet furthest from its comfort zone, particularly in her opening trio with Lonberg-Holm’s cello and Michael Zerang’s percussion, later reprised with the addition of McPhee. A trio of Yagi, Lonberg-Holm (back on guitar) and Brötzmann is another highlight, as is Yagi’s sensitive response to a moment of tenderness the collective brass distill from a heated climax. Her solo at this point is atypically lyrical for this otherwise overtly masculine ensemble.
The set featuring Yagi was undoubtedly the best choice for inclusion in the Long Story Short box set. The others are represented there only by the inclusion of photographs of Otomo, Kondo and Sakata in the booklet.
Otomo, on electric guitar (sadly no turntable), plays a rebarbative opening solo shading into sustains, which draws taut, measured response from Brötzmann’s tarogato, Ken Vandermark’s clarinet and Mats Gustafsson’s baritone, and then a busier bowed exegesis from Lonberg-Holms’ cello and Kent Kessler’s bass. Using a pick for his more sensitive playing, Otomo turns to slide as the tempo picks up. The dual-drums and massed brass are in full effect here behind Vandermark’s superb tenor solo. In two further solo spots, Otomo uses two-pronged metal to gouge out sounds, spiking feedback sustains with sudden lacerations, and uses discreet preparations, de-tuning, palm-slaps and his teeth in a subtle, superb duet with Jeb Bishop’s brassy smears of trombone.
Akira Sakata gets the Tentet back to brass and reeds loquacity, though Brötzmann picks up a baritone horn to add gravity, drawing the ensemble into a muted introspection that lapses fully into silence: cue a rather cerebral exchange of bowed strings and rubato slide brass, and a fleet exchange between Sakata and Vandermark, both on clarinet, shadowed by Per-Âke Holmlander’s artful flittering of tuba. Brötzmann’s response is to goad the Tentet back to a full head of steam, giving Mats Gustafsson, Kent Kessler and Paal Nilssen-Love their head for a pugilistic trio. Sakata and Gustafsson locking horns raises the tempo still further, but the concert ends not long after with the leader back on tenor, conducting the orchestra at a deliberative mid-tempo.
There are plusses and minuses with watching the DVD. Of course it’s great to see the group at work, but sometimes its frustrating to have one’s attention directed: there’s a lot going on, and no matter how well directed the film is (and it is well directed) the mind’s eye often drifts to events out of frame. The Stadttheatre stage is wide, so the band has plenty of space, and there are few glimpses of the body language that tells so much at close quarters. The sound is slightly brittle but clearly defined.
No doubt, on balance it’s nice to have the visuals—it’s nice to see an electrified Brötzmann bunny hop at the climax to the Kondo set, and a surprise to find out that Yagi’s intricately tattooed sleeves, as seen in that monochrome booklet shot, aren’t ink at all, but lace (boo!)—but I will most often play this DVD audio-only, whenever I have 105 minutes to give up to it. And come back to it I will; it’s an inexhaustible document of a magnificent ensemble on top form.
Though you need no further incentive to purchase, all proceeds of DVD sales are donated to Yoshihide Otomo’s organisation Project Fukushima!, a long-term project to aid the rehabilitation of Fukushima, the city devastated by the Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011.
Long Story Short – Wels 2011 Curated by Peter Brötzmann (5 CD).
Konstrukt feat. Peter Brötzmann – Eklisia Sunday.
Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M, Evan Parker, Tony Marsh, John Edwards, John Butcher – Quintet, Sextet, Duos.