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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Full Blast: Live at Cafe Oto 10/4/2018

Photo from
By Sammy Stein

Full Blast are Marino Pliakas on bass, Michael Wertmueller on drums and Peter Brotzmann on reeds. Together this trio deliver something very special. From the first note, the intent is clear - devastating sound delivered either at full throttle, full volume or cut back, suddenly falling into near silence with an almost aching, searching quality.

Once the music started, it mattered not a jot the setting, the space or the place. Close your eyes for a moment and you were lost, borne away on the driving, full pelt drive that is Full Blast on top form. Drums vying with the bass, fast, powerful and together with the sax, clarinet and other reeds the magnitude, momentum and noise build and build. Walls of sound, loud, relentless, wave after wave becoming ever more textured, sonorous and then suddenly, at some sensed moment dropping down with the suddenness of an axe to leave the sax or clarinet emotively searching, climbing scales and descending, over the top of a low volume thrumming bass and tremulous drums. The points of these changes were dictated by some kind of intellectual and musical connection unfathomable yet perfectly placed, as if the listener was provided with that which their hearts secretly knew was coming and expected, now made whole, a gift from the ensemble.

Marino Pliakas is mesmeric on bass, his fingers racing up and down the frets and lower strings, creating patterns and waves of sound which flow out and engulf. Michael Wertmueller on drums is sensitive to the tiniest change in atmosphere and will change accordingly yet is also not afraid to dictate a change of tempo and noise, which the others follow. At times, the heavy rock style of both players felt like a competition in noise and speed. Then, effortlessly stealing the stage with his eyes shut tight, there is Peter Brotzmann.

Somewhere between the time the air leaves his lungs, is controlled by his lips and tongue, enters, travels through and exits his instrument, alchemy takes place. Molecules of ordinary air have been squeezed, pushed together and transformed into things of beauty and power. They can now deliver ferocious passion and emotion which enters souls, whether playing loud and fast or exquisitely gently and emotively, Peter Brotzmann delivers with a strength still as magnificent as when he started.
At times, the bass and drums turned up the volume enough to literally make the floor of the packed Cafe Oto shake, yet they too displayed a sense of perception which showed a trio in total communication on stage, something which the audience could not fail to pick up.

Peter Brotzmann has long been the epitome of a free players, someone whose heart and history is delivered in his playing. The more you know the man, the more you understand his music and the depth of feeling which comes across. At Cafe Oto, this night there was a sense of a shift, an even deeper meaning behind the emotive playing , like we were witness to a change and the whole place felt charged and crackling. Peter's delivery, however, belied anything which may be behind that feeling and the emotion he put into his delivery was simply immense. Beautiful , prosaic interludes contrasting with forceful, rapid-fingered, overblown, searching sections are felt by even the coldest of listeners and cut through to the soul.

For Peter, as he has told me before, music is about connection and tonight he did what he does best, aided and abetted by stalwart fellow musicians. The unengaged became engaged, the inanimate stung into life, the bored interested. This was the effect of Full Blast, played at full blast.


Colin Green said...

I see there is a new Full Blast album, “Live in Rio”, available to download from Bandcamp: