This duo’s recital at Cafe Oto was a tour de force. Peter Brötzmann is nothing if not an impassioned musician, calling to mind Martin Luther King’s words*, “… the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument.”
Admirably complemented by Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and electronics, they made an unequivocal case for the music in the raw, unpeeling its layers, creating unimpeded connections with each other and with the room. Brötzmann’s armoury is carefully chosen and well tended – opening on his exquisite copper-red tenor, he switched to a long, tense spell on tarogato in the first set, before adopting the elegant bass clarinet in the second session.
There was a natural blend in the fast flowing torrent of ideas – an initial jolting burst of energy dropped down to allow a quiet introspective interlude. Lonberg-Holm would track back to his classical roots before veering off in a more disquieting direction, bringing in electronic lionesque growls to match Brötzmann’s guttural strains. When they drew the first set to a close it was skilfully administered, as though they were letting the air out of the balloon – a deflation, and a soft landing.
Brötzmann bristled with Bechet-like intensity. His energy, power and vocabulary are compelling. He’d pull out cyclical rhythmic patterns which were stretched to the extreme. Lonberg-Holm would pick these up in a kind of musical chase and bat them back with rock and classical inflections – one moment a subtle foil, the next the untrammelled explorer; he took up a blunt knife blade to grate out deep, scraping sounds, and used the bow behind the strings to tap the body of the cello, juggling with what looked like a giant clothes peg inserted variously between the strings. Light echoes and sonar electronics were interspersed with sudden punched blasts and piercing high notes from Brötzmann, and by the final number they had filled in all the spaces in their dense mesh of sound. No coasting, this was a statement of presence. As King said in the same speech:
“Jazz speaks for life.”*
*Martin Luther King’s opening speech at the Berlin Jazz Festival, 1964,’Humanity and the importance of jazz’.