Sunday, April 20, 2008
Seeing red: Bennink, Brotzmann, Evans, Blancarte at Clemente Soto Velez, set 1
Are there two redder men on the planet than Han Bennink and Peter Brötzmann? Bennink seems to be permanently stained pink, while Brötzmann tends to get there within about five minutes of hard blowing. Both men were in fine, ruddy form tonight at Clemente Soto Velez, where they were joined by trumpeter Peter Evans and bassist Tom Blancarte, a.k.a. Sparks.
Evans has built up a strong reputation as one of sickest young improvisers around--check out his '06 solo disc, More Is More, on Evan Parker's psi label and you'll hear why--and it was awesome to see him getting the chance to jam with these high-energy veterans. Blancarte isn't as well known, but it's a safe bet he will be soon.
Seeing Bennink live is really something you have to do. The man simply detonates the room every time he sits down at a kit. I was sitting right behind him tonight and it was really cool to watch him meticulously prepare the drums--ditching the stool to sit on the edge of the stage, tuning the snare, adjusting the cymbal stands--and then just absolutely explode once he started playing. His wrists are incredible: loose and fluid when they need to be, yielding insanely dense rolls, and then suddenly taut, eliciting bombastic thwacks. (He's one of the few players that I can easily forgive for playing too loud, b/c you'd never want to hear him restrained in any way.) There's a goofy aspect to his playing--lifting his foot up on the drums for pitch-bending effects, shoving a stick in his mouth and using it like a talking drum--but there's always a sense of extreme commitment: the guy just has this radioactive quality, whether he's blitzing pure texture or laying down a buoyant groove.
The quartet played three pieces and during the first one Blancarte and Evans seemed to be holding on for dear life. Brötzmann and Bennink just slammed into blistering free-jazz action, with Blancarte mauling his strings furiously and Evans whinnying like mad. Evans usually outpaces everyone else onstage in terms of energy, but Bennink had him beat--the dude was just merciless. Brötzmann (on tenor) left a lot of space in his growling lines, but created this amazing sense of weight and volume. It's a brilliant sight when he wiggles his mouth back and forth for a vibrato effect.
The younger dudes started to find their footing in the second piece, which had some incredible moments, including a superkinetic and tense duet between Blancarte and Bennink, contrasting dead stops and rapid-fire blasts. At one point Bennink layed down some sick uptempo swing that Blancarte immediately picked up on and as Brötzmann started to blow (on alto now), the drummer could be heard screaming to Evans, "Go Peter, go!" This was the strongest *band* moment of the set, all players burning in the same direction. By this point there was a real sense of camaraderie, revelry, etc., and a sense that this probably wouldn't be the last time these four would share the stage.
The third piece started quieter, with Brötzmann on the tarogato, a clarinet-like metal reed instrument. He blended well with Evans here, but overall it was pretty tough to hear the trumpet from where I was sitting (Evans's back was to me, so that had a lot to do with it). During the few moments when Bennink dropped out, though--one time because of a mutilated kick-drum pedal--the bass-and-horns trio got into some tantalizing stuff.
The energy level tonight was about ten times as high as when Brötz and Bennink played duo at CSV in October of '06. It was a short set, but an insanely charged one, and even though Bennink was the center of attention, the other three offered serious workouts as well. This kind of balls-out free jazz can seem played out until you see it practiced by dudes like Brötzmann--absolutely unrelenting and gut-busting--and Bennink--completely unhinged and life-full. And very, very red.
PS: There's tons of great stuff on YouTube from both dudes. Try this '06 duo clip for starters: