REVIEW: Peter Brötzmann / Hamid Drake / William Parker Trio at Cafe Oto

Drake, Parker, and Brötzmann,Cafe Oto Jan 2015.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Peter Brötzmann / Hamid Drake / William Parker Trio
(Cafe Oto, 27th January 2015: day one of a three day residency; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

From Peter Brötzmann's first blast on tenor to Hamid Drake's showers of drum rolls and William Parker's bowed solo at the final curtain, their two sets of rolling intensity in a packed, hot Cafe Oto allowed no compromises. This seasoned improvising trio read each other's playing, and accommodated occasional tangential surprises, with a natural, flowing confidence born out of their long-standing association going back to the early 90s - notably in the Die Like a Dog Quartet with trumpeter Toshinori Kondo.

Brötzmann took the lead in terms of melodic input, in charged repetitions underscored with a dense, rhythmic imperative, but equally capable of lyrical flights on alto and silver clarinet. Parker and Drake wove their ways in and out of these threads with masterly understatement, supplying both the heartbeats and cascading passages to complement Brötzmann's singleminded advance.

At one with the upright bass, Parker, in trance-like mode, would deftly pluck at the strings with his right hand, while briefly resting his left on its body, taking up the bow to supplement the timbres. Drake's rich concatenations of percussive interplay with Brötzmann's explorations added another level of sensitivity to the rhythmic flows.

The deserts of Africa met the mountains of the Balkans when the second set opened with Drake singing a melodic poem as his fingers traced patterns on a hand-held frame drum, and Parker calmly putting down the essential pulse on the two strings of a guembri/sintir, to be joined by the plaintive yearnings of Brötzmann's tarogato, which then took on a North African flavour to add another disarming cross-cultural current to the mix.

The trio never let down their guard for a moment, even at their most relaxed. Their power phrasing was matched by beautiful duet interludes and brief snatches of funky, rock and soul backbeat. There was even a hint of Round Midnight. By eleven fifteen the trio had given their all and garnered a resoundingly appreciative response from an audience that had followed every step of their richly nuanced dialogue.

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