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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Brötzmann brings abrasive and unique brand of jazz

When Jazz-musician Peter Brötzmann visits Gardner for a 7:30 show tonight as part of his month-long U.S. tour, don’t expect a repeat of March’s Wynton Marsalis performance. Asked in a 2003 interview with All About Jazz whether he considers himself a “jazz musician,” Brötzmann responded, “if it has to do with Lincoln Center and this [Ken] Burns guy, and Michael Dorff and all that crap, I don’t want to have to do something with that,” he said. “But, if it comes out of the tradition or the real meaning of the music, if somebody would call me a jazz musician, that would make me a little proud.”

If you had to categorize Brötzmann, he’d end up somewhere in the free jazz or free improvisational movements, where he has been most commonly associated throughout his 40-year career. But all questions of genre become irrelevant once Brötzmann truly finds his rhythm. Instead of pleasing the senses, Brötzmann’s music often seems like it wants to attack them, consuming you in a barrage of harsh and abrasive notes.

Within the melee, though, is a strong sense of lyricism, proof that Brötzmann has mastered his form. The melody is evident throughout, with a hint of blues and bebop, and gets easier to find once you get past the initially impenetrable wall of sound. It’s jazz, for sure—his bassist, Eric Revis, spent ten years playing with Brantford Marsalis—but it’s jazz unlike anything most people have ever heard before.

His style distinguishes itself not only in the music, but also in merely watching the performers onstage. In videos with his drummer Nasheet Waits, Brötzmann’s body flails, he paces around the stage and his fingers cascade up and down his saxophone, all while Waits drums like a crazed maniac. It’s a testament to their skill—as well as their seemingly limitless energy—that their sound and flair only help bring out their technical proficiency.

It’s always hard to proclaim that a concert will be the most unique of the year. But between Brötzmann’s career, his in-your-face sound, and the guaranteed energy the concert will surely bring, tonight’s show might have a case.

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