Live reviews

Peter Brötzmann, Jason Adasiewicz, John Edwards, Steve Noble at Cafe OTO

Peter Brötzmann, Jason Adasiewicz, John Edwards, Steve Noble
(Cafe OTO, 2-day residency 10-11 February 2023. Live review and drawings by Geoff Winston)

Peter Brötzmann. Drawing by Geoff Winston. All Rights Reserved

After humbly letting the Cafe OTO audience know that “It’s a pleasure to be back,” Peter Brötzmann launched the quartet’s first night with an earth-shattering blast on alto sax, which he then built on with liquid, register-scaling runs and fluttering bass tremors – powerful statements to set the scene, and to let everyone know that, even at 81, he’s not letting up in any way – quite the opposite. As both evenings evolved, he demonstrated that he never stands still, and is constantly refining his means of expression, finding delicate lyricism and softness in the darkest places to complement the raw edges of the rock face.

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This formidable quartet last performed at Cafe OTO ten years ago [see link to review below]. In this celebratory regrouping, Jason Adasiewicz (vibes), John Edwards (bass) and Steve Noble (drums) brought tireless physical energy, enviable musical imagination and a combined intuitive sensitivity to their engagement with Brötzmann. He reciprocated with generosity to allow rhythmic and melodic themes to evolve, as each musician contributed powerful inputs to the uninterrupted, improvisational flux that defined each of two sets on both nights.

Chicagoan Adasiewicz flew from the start, contrasting beautifully phrased, soft-toned runs with high octane, percussive, four-mallet hammerings, embracing incomings head-on. Edwards, equally, brought out the melodic and physical potential of his stand-up bass, flitting from finger to bow, hand-slapping its body and offering a spine-tingling solo spot just before the close on night one. Noble held it all together with a fast-changing rhythmic undertow that not only maintained the pace and responded to inputs from every direction, but also added a subtly melodic aspect as he washed the cymbals, rolled the snares and tapped the toms to make the drums sing.

Steve Noble and John Edwards. Drawing by Geoff Winston. All Rights Reserved

Ultimately, it was Brötzmann who put his stamp on the sessions, drawing deep from the soul, picking his moments to shape-shift the direction and guide the intensity with unspoken authority. Swapping between alto sax, silver clarinet and tenor sax he punched the sound barrier with squalling, high-pitched screams, geese calls, and deep-toned clarinet vibrations. Yet he could disarmingly ease off and drop out then quietly rejoin the flow, start on a slinky blues out of nowhere and summon up lush, lyrical improvisations on the bare bones of a jazz standard – hints of ‘I Surrender Dear’ – before returning to the fray with uncompromising single-mindedness to remind the house that, in his hands, music is so alive, and can serve as a source of hope and reflection in these troubled times. A triumph.


Previous reviews by Geoff Winston of Peter Brötzmann:

Review of Peter Brötzmann/ Edwards/ Marsh/ Thomas from 2010

Review of Hairy Bones from 2010

Review of Full Blast Trio with Ken Vandermark from 2010

Chicago International Tentet from 2011

with Keiji Heino in 2011

with Paal Nilsson-Love in 2013

Review of this quartet in 2013 (referred to in text)

With Steve Noble and Keith Tippett in 2014

Trio with Hamid Drake and William Parker in 2015

With Heather Leigh in 2016

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