Saturday, May 2, 2015

Peter Brötzmann with Hamid Drake & William Parker at Seattle Art Museum: May 13

One of towering figures of the post-BeBop Jazz landscape, the 'saxophone colossus' Peter Brötzmann, who graced cover of the The Wire twice last year with a series of bold and impassioned interviews as well as a Primer for the magazine, is back at Seattle Art Museum with two other major players in modern Jazz. The legendary percussionist for many of the groundbreaking albums of the last four decades, Hamid Drake, and upright bassist and Jazz polymath, William Parker as part of Earshot Jazz' excellent Spring season programming. An ideal introduction to the man and his work can be had in Bernard Josse's, "Soldier of the Road" on Peter Brötzmann and his role as a pivotal figure in shaping the contemporary Euro Free Jazz scene. It does exactly what a music docu should do; iterate the cultural/political context that gave birth to he movement, explore it's various philosophies, depict the movement's cast of major players and show them in action. Namely Brötzmann with a rotating cast spanning half a century of players and collaborators. From his accounting his earliest childhood memories of German occupied Prussia and then Russian occupied Prussia and at a young teenage year, realizing his love of art stemming from a freedom that opposed the Nationalism and Fascism that inspired the war. Later to his taking up the Clarinet and painting and packing himself off to art school... only to land right in the middle of the BeBop and Hard Bop scene and then later at the vanguard of the Free Jazz movement.

And then the 60's hit and there's not only players on both sides of the Atlantic, but audiences and collaborators from England, to France to Belgium to Germany and a inquisitive young audience, who might not necessarily 'get it' but are looking for the unheard and the liberating. Ad to that the corresponding movements in the visual arts, notably Fluxus and Brötzmann is right there in the fray of things making a strong connection with the ethos of the movement. From the Punk Rock noise and fury of the Machine Gun albums to the equally powerful 80's lineup that was Last Exit to his later years, still as fiery, still as invested, still blasting away on his horn. But as the documentary depicts, with an equilibrium tempered by his lifelong love of walks in nature, photography, botany and his deep passion for isolated individual time in the studio working on graphic works and abstract landscape painting very much of the German Neo-Expressionist school. All of this balanced with time spent touring and collaborating with some of the fieriest, loudest, most dynamic and adventurous players in the world; Evan Parker, Mats Gustafsson, Ken Vandermark, Fred Van Hove, Paal Nilsen-Love, Joe McPhee, Michael Wertmüller, Michael Zerang, Johannes Bauer... most of whom now make up Brötzmann's Chicago Tentet. This is how one weathers decades, becomes all bearded and grey and remains a fiery passion with depths of deep contemplation and at the front of a vanguard most of the world can't even begin to approach. As a live, physical, auditory performance he transcends all the words said and written above. By far.