Die Like A Dog Quartet

The German composer-reedman Peter Brotzmann is, despite a vast catalog that spans over 40 years, criminally underrepresented as a standard piano-less quartet. Most of the possible combinations have been covered, from reed-heavy orchestras and octets to the winds bass-drums power trio to a long-running trio featuring percussion and piano. In the late 1990s, his Die Like A Dog Quartet was one of the instrumental albums in the canon. It produced five records: From Valley to Valley (Eremite, Jr.), and four more discs on FMP… Brotzmann is joined now by Toshinori Kano, a Japanese trumpeter and master of extended technique, as well as the ubiquitous rhythm team of William Parker and Hamid Drake. Initial use of the phrase “Die Like A Dog” in concert was with the subtitle “fragments music, life, and death of Albert Ayler”. Brotzmann’s portrait Ayler in the first volume of his biography is a key part of the saxophonist’s development. The discs include titles like Little Birds Have Fast Hearts or Aoyama Crows. Death and mortality are prominent themes. Kondo is an extraordinarily curious figure whose electronically-abetted phrases contradict and flesh out the stark phrases of the elder tenor man. Kondo is not Ted Daniel, wah-wah Miles or pitch-divided Ted Daniel. Kondo’s shrieks, split tones and screams simultaneously mark and blur the literal space Brotzmann Parker, Parker, and Drake occupy. This is not the same “space” that music from the AACM/Spontaneous Music Ensemble would create, but something architectural. It expands the group’s musical repertoire into something Edgar Varese and Le Corbusier might have appreciated. It’s a riff on Ayler’s ability to fill the earth while reaching for the heavens. Kondo’s electrified trumpet is not capable of increasing the temperature or shaking the rafters in a performance hall. It can do what Bill Dixon, an avowed influence, might call “making the sound into the cube” and “allowing the one to walk within it.” However, this is not exactly the same as Dixon’s work. Kondo’s electric trumpet bounces off walls creating mutable shapes in the air. This is a strange play on the concept of reverberation. It is interesting to think about Die Like A Dog within the context of a post-Ayler generation of saxophone led units. This is especially important considering that players like Brotzmann sought to both strengthen their foundations as individuals (and Germans and Europeans) as well as to continue a free jazz tradition. John Litweiler, a critic, remarks on Brotzmann’s debut in The Freedom Principle Jazz after 1958 (Da Capo 1990) and then goes on to place for Adolphe Sax (19BRO/FMP 1967) in direct relief of Spiritual Unity. This is a disservice to two saxophonists at the time who were unaware of each other’s practice. Although fragments from an Ayler call to arms weave their way through the title suite of Die Like A Dog, and Drake’s initial pilings, out-of-tempo polyrhythms that are similar to Milford Graves work on Ayler’s Love Cry, it is a homage that soon occupies other areas. Kondo expands on Brotzmann’s multiphonic wail with crisp, darting punches. Before bends and wows become an electric howl, they only slightly pull away form tonality. Kondo’s steely blasts are in tandem with a sonic spatial exploration and, in concert with tenor brilliance, create a front line that toy with furious overblowing, wry grunginess, and Brotzmann’s 1970s work was known for its wild sensibilities. Kondo’s presence makes for an unusual, edgy quality unlike any of his other front-line partners. Brotzmann first made rhythm a key part of his groups in the late 1970s when he started working with Louis Moholo and Harry Miller, an expatriate South African drummer and bassist. Their shared swirl buoyed groups such as the Brotherhood of Breath, and many other offshoots. William Parker was part of Brotzmann’s large ensemble at the 1984 Sound Unity Festival, New York. They reconnected at the 1986 Workshop Frieie Musik, Berlin (OluIwa, Soul Note). Although he is known for his physical, massive approach to the bow, which would have served Brotzmann’s music in previous years, in Die Like A Dog, his role is to permute and create a fluid, rhythmic, chordal-rhythmic foundation. Parker recommended Hamid Drake to the group. While he is an obvious heir to Moholo, Graves, especially at this stage, his Africanized approach of free-rhythm percussion also reflects Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins. Parker and he create extraordinary time passages that could support any down-home blues musician, even if they were not among the greats of free playing. Allaboutjazz

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