Since moving to Baltimore I've been exposed to a lot of European improvisers as they tour through the city of firsts. It has left me hungry to hear more.
Last night Peter Brotzmann brought his trio, featuring Marino Pliakas on electric bass and Michael Wertmuller on drums, to the cozy confines of the Red Room. Given Brotzmann's reputation for "sonic terror," one might expect the state department would keep the 66-year-old reedsman on its no-fly list. Unfortunately, it was most of the group's instruments, reeds and merchandise that were lost in transit as the band soldiered on in the wake of a nightmare of 21st century travel. This did little to strip this trio of its considerable fire power as they unleashed two sets of throbbing, high-density noise.
This trio is essentially a speed-metal rhythm section with a free jazz saxophonist as the front man. And it works well because of the musicianship of all the players involved. The aggressive physicality of this music is a welcome blast and a chance to hear all the intricate moving parts of this thick mass of sound. It's the details of this swirling, pounding sonic assault that makes this music so engaging. At times, the tide would recede as the rhythm section would pull back to expose the sturdy, coarse yet oddly lyrical playing of Brotzmann before pulling things back into the undertow. I was awed by this group's ability to allow moments of solos to flow organically from this rough sonic fabric without allowing the overall energy level or musical consistency to falter. The skillful fluctuation in density is one of this trio's great strengths. The unflinching exploration into territories of extreme densities and hard-grooving, high-bpm pulse reveals beautiful shards of noise-laced, dissonant detail devoid of the mindless anger often associated with hard-core musics. I'd love to dig through Brotzmann's recorded output (and paintings) to piece together how his sound has evolved into this exquisite darkness.
update: Here's another review of the same show.