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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Peter Brötzmann/Steve Swell/Paal Nilssen-Love, Schorndorf, Manufaktur, 4-22-2016

Paal Nilssen-Love, Steve Swell, Peter Brötzmann (l-r)
By Martin Schray

Peter Brötzmann is a musician who has always looked for new challenges - and still is, even at the age of 75. That’s why he welcomed New York trombonist Steve Swell’s suggestion for a tour last year with open arms, given the fact that they had never played with each other before. Brötzmann brought along drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, which was an obvious match since Swell knew him well through their collaboration in Frode Gjerstad’s trio. In the end, the tour was really successful, the trio released a live recording (Krakow Nights) and agreed on another tour for 2016.

On April, 22nd they were back at Schorndorf’s Manufaktur, a place they had really rocked the year before. That gig presented Swell as a trombonist who was able to go against Brötzmann’s melodies and lines and the other way round, it reminded of Brötzmann’s Pica Pica album (with Albert Mangelsdorff and Günter "Baby" Sommer). The interaction was extraordinarily immediate and spontaneous, the three were almost dueling one another. No wonder the club was packed again and the audience might have expected more of the same - but then most of the music turned out to be quite different.

The performance consisted of two pieces (the first one 48 minutes long, the second one nine) plus an encore and presented the trio as a real unit that has obviously grown after several concerts. The musicians understood each other instinctively, they played absolutely tight. Duos interrupted the usual trio performances, but especially the solos structured the concert. Brötzmann’s solo parts were alternating between wild and angry passages - particularly on tenor he used split and overblowing notes - and intimate and subtle ones when he was on clarinet and tarogato. Nilssen-Love used his solo to lay into a manic African groove, while Swell integrated classic jazz and hard bop phrases to fan the flames. Some of the trio parts reminded of the great free jazz days of the 1970s when Brötzmann threw in his typical phrases in his characteristic vibrato-laden tenor sound.

But in general, the music was hardly boisterous or full blast. The most surprising and characteristic element of the gig was that Swell and Brötzmann used expansive lines, they did not foil each other. Quite the contrary, they were rather supportive. Usually, Brötzmann likes to attack his fellow musicians if they sound to melodic for him, but that night his contributions were often mellow and bluesy. Steve Swell took over these phrases and extended them with similar lines which created an atmosphere of great intimacy and sublimity. Paal Nilssen-Love responded to that input by sticking to the toms (cymbals, sticks and hand drums were rather an element to stress certain parts) which added a dark, tribalistic note but which could also be interpreted as a reminiscence to the great Milford Graves.

After the show the musicians were in a very relaxed mood, Steve Swell said that he was really satisfied with the tour in general, mostly the gigs were sold out. Brötzmann was very cheerful as well (after some drinks) stating that he was very pleased with the music of that night. There is nothing more to add.