Thursday, August 14, 2003

Peter Brötzmann, William Parker and Hamid Drake - Antwerpen, 09/08/2003

I looked long and hard for the venue of the Antwerpen Free Music Festival. I even had to stop in an internet café to look at a map (the one I had printed out turned out to be too imprecise). So I got there over an hour late. Fortunately, the show started quite late as well, so I only missed the first of the three concerts. I was told that I didn't miss much. I'll only comment on the second of the two concerts I saw.

I'd never seen Parker or Brötzmann before, but this was my 4th time seeing Drake. Finally, he played the way I saw him play the first time (with Assif Tsahar and Peter Kowald). The last two times I'd seen him, he was with David Murray, and was much more "shackled in". Here, Parker and Drake created incredibly deep, visceral and, in some respects, primal rhythms for Brötz to blow over. Pure joy to listen to. At one point, I was thinking "This is how people must have felt, listening to Basie, back in the day."

Brötzmann was of course blowing hard for most of the night, but also had significant stretches of more lyrical playing where he recalled the breath and vibrato of Ben Webster. For one of the two (I think) pieces, Parker played on a moroccan bass, playing various ostinatos, over which Brötzmann blew orientalese on clarinet and Drake played more freely at first, then going into various African rhythms. They brought the house down!

The only weak point was when Brötzmann and Parker went into ballad-type playing (chord changes and everything!), Drake just lost the focus, drive and intensity that he has on more dynamic pieces. Maybe that's one of his limitations? It was a bit unfortunate, as Parker and Brötzmann were playing quite beautifully, the latter closer than ever to Ben Webster.

After the show, we decided to skip the closing mega-jam so as not to risk spoiling the memory of the amazing concert. We were sitting at a café and Hamid stopped by. Every time I've met him, I've been astounded at how warm a person he is. This time he surprised me by detailling his itinerary several months from now, a feat which most musicians are incapable of doing. In fact, many touring musicians seem to barely know where they're headed next. Hamid said he does everything himself, so I guess he better remember where he's going, because no-one's going to remind him!