PETER BRÖTZMANN / HEATHER LEIGH / TOSHINORI KONDO, MARTINSCHLÖSSL, VIENNA, AUSTRIA, AUGUST 31, 2017: German reeds player Peter Brötzmann played frequently with Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo during the nineties in the Albert Ayler-inspired quartet Die Like A Dog (with American rhythm section of double bass player William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake) and a decade later in the like-minded yet short-lived quartet Hairy Bones (with the rhythm section of Italian bass player Massimo Pupillo and Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love). Their newer collaboration, a trio with Brötzmann new, favorite muse, American pedal steel player Heather Leigh, has conducted a European six-day tour last August. This trio offered a different experience from the heated, intense and even brutal storms of Die Like A Dog and Hairy Bones quartets.
I caught the trio on the fourth date of this tour, at the Viennese Martinschlössl restaurant (arranged like a military kitchen) – club. The urgent, uncompromising tone of the previous group transformed into a surprising reserved and calm atmosphere. Brötzmann still opened this first set with a fierce, muscular cry on the tenor sax, as he often does, but soon alternated to a much more fragile and tender sax (and later clarinet and tarogato) playing, suggesting with a warm, vibrato-filled sound that brought to mind early inspirations as Coleman Hawkins and Ben Webster. Kondo, with his electric, effects-tinged trumpet, added a distant, more economic dimension, sometimes even otherworldly one.
Leigh, a generation younger than these two resolute gentlemen, was seated at the center of the stage, and cleverly acted as the responsible adult who balanced between Brötzmann and Kondo. Whenever Brötzmann sounded as searching for a wilder, stormy terrain she signaled a slower, gentler pace, and whenever Kondo sounded as lost in faraway universes she reached for him again with her earthy, bluesy lines. This delicate, passionate interplay offered a contemplative, even majestic temperament, rich with new sounds and harmonious gestures, completely different from the one often associated with Brötzmann or Kondo. It was a memorable performance that stressed an attentive listening, great empathy and beautiful moments of emotional, soulful playing.
Text and photo: Eyal Hareuveni