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Brötz lives!

CAFÉ OTO, LONDON, DAY 3, SATURDAY FEBRUARY 10, 2024: Insane! That is the only word I can think of to describe what I have been through these three days.

As we are preparing for the last day, for what will be a marathon of hearing music, eating music – of thinking about music, spinning off music, running to new music, of living music, London starts clearing up. We start, energized and ready, on our run towards – or is it away from? – our musical Marathon, on this third and last day. We prepare for launch and enter the physical, mental, energetic room of the Peter Brötzmann tribute at Café OTO.

We start with Markus Müller’s lecture on the history of FMP – Free Music Production. A wonderful guide with a stroll through the history of FMP, alongside Jost Gebers and others. If you have any interest in this music and FMPs legacy, you need Müller’s book FMP: The Living Music. Not the least for the photos, and for the memories. For the all.

Morgengymnastik with a centipede – Day 3 Matinee, Friday
The next station is the matinee concert. Four sets of new – and old – combinations. First out is a trio of Camille Emaille on percussion, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello and Pat Thomas on piano. A long time ago, someone called this kind of music millipede music, suggesting the gliding movement of a millipede. Millipede – centipede, thousands legs, hundreds of leg, concerted action of all legs and arms. Conveyed by ears, eyes, muscles.

They are both myriapoda with myriads of legs, but where the millipedes have two pair of legs per segment, the centipedes, or the scolopendra – i.e. the thorny earthworms – have one pair of legs on each segment. Fascinating creatures you can find under almost any stone in your own garden. The gait is different, but their legs move in concert, creating a concert of music, where immediate stimuli, caught and interpreted by ears, smells, airs, eyes and I’s as we, may lead it unpredictably in all directions. Millipedes–centipedes–micropedes–makropedes–makropeter–pedestrian music – Peterian music. Is that the smell of Peter Brötzmann’s cigar I sense?I love me some Pat! You may take another!

The second set is with Heather Leigh, Fred-Lonberg-Holm and Camille Emaille again, and then Joe McPhee. McPhee is flying, Lonberg-Holm is living, caring, smoothing, healing – feeling. The music overtakes, overthrows, overtops, overalls, overations – plié, relevé, révérance – and ovations!

The third set: Ken Vandermark on tenor and clarinet & Paal Nilssen-Love-Live-Diiive on drum-drum-dramdram – Live long and prosper! Prosper live and long … Long prosper and live! The pair of them take up several meters in my shelves, the pair has played together since … a very long time ago. Another large box, Japan 2019, is out – a massive, energetic and invincible box that should be given on prescription to anyone suffering from mild depressions or perceptions of being at odds with your karma. At least, that is what our reviewer writes about the box.

Have they cheated? Haven’t they? Just briefly returning home, following a three week-training camp tour in Japan, before coming here at Café OTO? I’m big in Japan, sang Tom Waits. This duo is big everywhere, also here in Dalston, Hackney, northeast in London.

It is tight, driving, fertile. Tenor and drums, dancing tarantella in odd meters. Creating life in the primordial soup, gooing, oozing, fruity broth. We are witnessing, hearing, seeing, feeling, the birth of life. Life starts with romance. Vandermark picks up the B♭ clarinet. Did I really hear some Camille music? Saint-Saëns, that is? Taking it down … down … down. Breathe out, breathe in. Breathe ooouuttt …

The Ant-Eater’s Wizard has a Morgengymnastik und andere Lieder. It is time for the last set of the Matinee concert, with Alexander Schlippenbach and Sven-Åke Johansson. Every now and then, the Phantom appears as an ordinary man, according to an old jungle saying. Every now and then Schlippenbach and Johansson appears as a spoken word-piano duo, says an old Free Music saying. And it’s a fiesta! Bloomin’ ‘eck!

An ant heap – ant heap – and deep – and deep. Who is Ajax? Rise Ajax. There were two Ajax – what is plural of one ajax? Ajaces? – at Troy, the major Ajax and the rapist Ajax, ‘the Lesser Ajax’. ||: Little did it matter :||

Bitte hände hoch bis zum Kopf – mit leichte schwankenden Bewegungen – ab und zu – mit durchgesehenden Gläser – Ihr rechte Hand auf Ihr rechte Knie. Bleiben sie stehen oben!

He smiles like a Cheshire Cat im Mondschein. He can only be seen …. in full moon. The fox will always let go. It is a Fata Morgana. See fair Morgan. Morgan le Fay fay fay ….

Johansson reads his own texts, the rhythm, the tone, the music is enchanting, mesmerizing, the content is creating strange images, while Johansson’s body develops the lines of words. All the while Schlippenbach comments, sprinkles, emphasizes, and ornaments. One thing is sure, the fox and we are spellbound, bedazzled, enthralled, but not in thrall. Thralldom, thrilldom, dom–dom–dom. Morgengymnastik, indeed!

For a few ballads more – after the rain: Day 3 Evening, Friday
The last concert is imminent. Remnant, eminent imminence. O, the immanent, imminent eminence. Forever and ever. Imminent desinence – there is always an end. But not yet!

Before that: Well, … I don’t know if they should’ve given me this platform. Because I’m very likely to go completely wild! Joe McPhee opens the first set of the evening, reading his own texts with Jason Adasiewicz on vibe.

I would like you to … if you will … suspend belief! …. and imagine that I am Peter Brötzmann, … speaking … in the voice … of … Samuel L. Jackson:

Fuck free jazz! Who started the rumour that jazz was free? Mother[…]ers, musicians been payin’ for this shit … every day of their lives! Since the moment it popped out the […]! People ask me for some free jazz, and when I gave it to ‘em, the mother[…]ers gave it back to me, sayin’, ‘People actually pay you, to play that shit?’ … Jazz, my ass! Mother[…]ers don’t understand – the wear and tear on a musician’s soul!

People sayin’, ‘I don’t understand this shit! It ain’t got no beat, I can’t dance to it, sure as hell can’t fuck to it – I nearly broke my back, … tryin’ …! … When Ornette started, it was pure. It was pure, because it was harmolodic. This shit was pure strength of the heart. … Over sixty years of free jazz – that’s a long time! Time for some new shit!

It’s time for some new shit. New shit from the soul and the heart. McPhee tells us the story of his last interactions with Brötzmann, and it’s difficult to maintain calmness, registering the all the feelings and emotions, and not being drowned by them.  It’s nothing but the blues! … New Chicago Blues … nasty, low-down, trifling! On July 17, when the word dropped, the sun went out. … He wasn’t coming back!

I have heard Brötz. But I am too young, to ever have seen and heard Trane live. But the grief feels real and strong. I have always loved Trane’s music, since I heard it the first time. Dreaming of singing Lush Life as Johnny Hartman did in 1963.  Listen: It was a watershed moment, indeed! In the back of my head I hear the comforting sounds of the lullaby Wiegenlied, by Johannes Brahms. A song that many parents have sung, innumerably many times, for their young ones. And that the young ones later have sung for their babies. You can always travel to the world of dreams, where angels are guarding you and your steps, cradling you, comforting you.

We sing Bessie’s Blues – Lonnie’s Lament – let Africa/Brass ||: rain and shine :|| … and after the rain there is the affirmation … of the Love Supreme and so much more. So, so, so much more … ||: sing and shine :||, … we remember … and remember … and remember. How long has Trane been gone?

A recreation of A meeting in Chicago, a poetic prose text dedicated to Ken Vandermark. The sound contigious, in the anticipation of the next. Kitchy-kitchy-ya-ya! … Is he the one for me?

The sun came up on my mind, listening to McPhee and Adasiewicz. The sun came upon a different side of my mind.

Let us jump ahead in time: Later, Joe McPhee opens the fourth set on tenor, this time with Paal Nilssen-Love. For many years a favourite duo constellation. Varied, fiery, warm, and loving.

  • Why don’t you play ballads anymore?, Keith Jarrett asked Miles Davis when he was in Miles’ band. – Because I love them too much, was Miles Davis’ reply.

Now McPhee want to play balllads, and, yes, ballads do work – still. Ever and always. He is carrying the flame, on, and on, and on. When you are playing ballads – you are out there in the open. You cannot fake it!, he says. And they don’t! PNL playing ballads with Joe. Softly, as in a morning sunrise. Sweet as Candy. The Iron Men!

Let me say it, let me sing it, let me shout it, out, loud: You touched me / You touched my heart, / my mind / my all! Thank you.

All you need is love – Day 3 Evening, Friday
Back into order. Listen: Second set. Pat Thomas and Han Bennink. Bennink is not sitting on a pizza box. This time his throne is a cajon box. Groovy … Blam! Next; Caspar Brötzmann solo in the third set. Jimi Hendrix in a bass clef. Singing distortion, distorted song, on a dispersion, the songbird landherd Sandberg bass, word. Disproportion.

Fifth set, more of the same, same of the more, more of the more. Caspar B and Farida Amadou – two basses, loud, loud, up to 10 ¾. Bam-bam-bam-bam. Bambam. My head is full, flowing over, floating out, rising up. Singing. The end is nigh. The nigh is end. Is nigh the end. Over to u. Over to me. U over me. Me and u, too. Thank you, bam-bam. Bamm-Bamm! Is that Pebbles?

Concentrated efforts to dig deep into all the music over three days, take their toll. The sixth set is about to open. Ken Vandermark, Mats Gustafsson, Paal Nilssen-Love, and Farida Amadou. Amadou and PN-Love, listening, probing, putting in gear, getting into gear. Ballthrow to M-OGustafsson. One-two-and-three-four. Wham a-Bam-Bam-Bam, thank you-uh, Ma’am-bah. Vandermark turns to clarinet, the Gustaf-son to his baritone. It’s tight, it’s dense, it’s life, its secrets are emerging, undulating, organically growing. Beautiful!

It is past 11 p.m. We are exhausted, but strangely enough full of energy. Vitamins flies into my ears. Energizes the mallet, and the stirrup. Drum-drum–eardrum.  A brain on fire. No need to call the Fire Brigade. The fire quenches my thirst. For now. For a short while. Almost never have I felt better. Am I on drugs? Oh, yes! Amphetamusic, musicaline, musergic tonic acid dieminorids, MSD. Addictive? Oh yeah! Bien sûr! Selbstverständlich! Long term effect? Happiness! Joy! Life!

It’s time for the very last of 24 sets. This is with what I think of as the Peter Brötzmann Dalston Dedication Tentet + 1. Left to right: The leftists; Pat Thomas and Jason Adasiewicz, then along the wall, Steve Noble, Camille Emaille and Paal Nilssen-Love. In front of them: Mats Gustafsson and Ken Vandermark. Coming in from the right: Evan Parker, Zoh Amba and Joe McPhee. And as the +1, directing this madness, Fred Lonberg-Holm, with handwritten signs, coloured light bulbs and spotlight control as aids.

What a spectacle! A racket, a marvelous Spektakel, a spectaculum, literally; a small thing to be seen. Floating between chaos and order, between Kaos and Kosmos, looking deep into the Ginnungagap. For what? For the essences of life, for the Ur-energies, for beauty in complex simplicity, in simple complexity.

Summing up
What happened at Café OTO? I still haven’t got a clue, and that is wonderful. It is beyond explication, it is simply and justly, wonderful. And it don’t mean a thing, whether it got that swing, or not. The meaning is in the meaninglessness. No meaning is all meaning. All meaning is no meaning. Love is all.

The K2s, and Everests of the Himalayas during these days? For me there is no doubt: The octogenarians. Among them, two seriously playful and spiritual masters of the game, Joe McPhee and Sven-Åke Johansson.

First of all, thanks to Café OTO, its staff and in particular Hamish Dunbar for the direction, MC-ing, and for creating a wonderful event. Secondly thanks to all the musicians, who used the room and venue to create the unforgettable events and music. Thirdly, thanks to old friends, to new friends, to all the audiences present for contributing to a memorable atmosphere.

Lastly, and most importantly, the major thank you’s go to Peter Brötzmann! Rest in Power!


Text: Johan Hauknes
Photo: Lars Jönsson, except otherwise stated

Morning: Markus Müller.

Matinee: Pat Thomas, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Camille Emaille.

Matinee: Camille Emaille, Joe McPhee, Heather Leigh.

Matinee: Ken Vandermark, Paal Nilssen-Love.

Matinee: Alexander Schlippenbach, Sven-Åke Johansson.

Matinee: Sven-Åke Johansson. Foto: Johan Hauknes.

Evening: Jason Adasiewicz, Joe McPhee.

Evening: Han Bennink.

Evening: Caspar Brötzmann.

Evening-The Balladeers: Joe McPhee, Paal Nilssen-Love.

Evening: Paal Nilssen-Love.

Evening-The Dalston Tentet: Fred Lonberg-Holm, Jason Adasiewicz, Mats Gustafsson, Peter Brötzmann, Steve Noble, Ken Vandermark.

Evening-The Dalston Tentet: A director’s toolbox.