On DVD

Concert for Fukushima Wels 2011
Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet (PanRec/Trost Records)

By Ken Waxman

Passion is an adjective often associated with German sax avatar Peter Brötzmann, especially as on this DVD, you can see as well as hear the efforts that go into producing his gut-busting sounds. Concert for Fukushima Wels 2011 is a valuable addition to the saxophonist’s cannon for not only focusing on the passion behind his playing and that of the other musicians featured in this 75-minute live concert from an Austrian festival. The DVD also highlights Brötzmann’s compassion as well. Always politically engaged the Wuppertal-based reedist asked four Japanese innovators to play with the Chicago Tentet that night with all proceeds from the gigs going to two organizations aiding the victims of the then recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Altruism aside, the careful focus and fluid camera work of the film makers provide a matchless opportunity to observe individual solo strategies plus cohesive interaction among the band members, who now include five Europeans. Backed by a crisp percussion outlay from Paal Nilssen-Love and Michael Zerang, every variant of improvisational stance is on show from baritone saxophonist Mats Gustafsson frenzied, almost method-acting externalization of his search for the perfect sound to Joe McPhee unperturbedly cool in porkpie hat and shades, fitting note perfect pocket trumpet comments when the occasion arises.

As each guest joins the band, crisp editing and multi-camera work underlines how versatile the ensemble has become after more-than-a-decade-and-a-half together. Resplendent in a lemon-colored jacket and shades, electric trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, is a known quality, having performed with the group before and easily joins his sharp processed tones to the multiphonics produced by Brötzmann’s tenor lines and Ken Vandermark’s clarinet for instance. Although seemingly follow his own direction, sophisticated multi-camera work reveals that the body shakes and jagged licks from Yoshihide Otomo’s electric guitar dovetail with shaped runs from bassist Kent Kessler and cellist/guitarist Fred Lonberg-Holm. Expertly plucking tones from her multi-stringed kotos or roughening their strings with a fiddle bow, Michiyo Yagi’s alternately staccato and smooth output is framed by sympathetic harder blowing from Gustafsson and dual trombonists Jeb Bishop and Johannes Bauer.

However it’s veteran alto saxophonist/clarinetist Akira Sakata who makes what in a feature would be a scene stealing appearance. Diminutive, compared to the assembled Americans and Europeans, he goes head-to-head with the sax section with a mixture of power and aplomb, causing even Brötzmann to play more lung-bursting than elsewhere, before the older German and Japanese embrace in mutual admiration.

The capturing of this honest emotion is yet another reason that the film, produced by Pavel Borodin and Wolfgang Wasserbauer and directed and edited by Borodin is masterful achievement.

Tracks: 1. Japanese Landscapes 1 2. Japanese Landscapes 2 3. Japanese Landscapes 3 4. Japanese Landscapes 4

Personnel: Joe McPhee, trumpet; Toshinori Kondo, electric trumpet; Jeb Bishop and Johannes Bauer, trombone; Per-Åke Holmlander, tuba; Peter Brötzmann, Ken Vandermark and Akira Sakata reeds; Mats Gustafsson: saxophones; Yoshihide Otomo, electric guitar; Fred Lonberg-Holm, cello, electric guitar; Kent Kessler, bass; Michiyo Yagi, 21-string koto, 17-string bass koto; Paal Nilssen-Love and Michael Zerang drums

—For The New York City Jazz Record September 2013