DIE LIKE A DOG QUARTET FEATURING ROY CAMPBELL
Thirty years ago Cleveland-born free-jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler’s body was found floating in New York’s East River, and since then everyone from David Murray (who named an album Flowers for Albert) to the local repertory ensemble Witches & Devils (see separate Critic’s Choice) has lined up to pay tribute to his legacy. But no one is better suited to summon Ayler’s spirit than German reedist Peter Brötzmann: in the 1960s, on opposite sides of the Atlantic, they evolved strikingly similar styles, shouldering into the breach opened by the earliest free-jazz pioneers and blowing it wide apart with their raw, expressionist playing and titanic tones. Their music has been criticized as one-dimensionally primitive and aggressive, but its rigor also creates moments of rhapsodic beauty. In 1993 Brötzmann convened Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, New York bassist William Parker, and Chicago drummer Hamid Drake in Berlin, where they performed the blackly melancholic set of churning improvisations that became Die Like a Dog (FMP), quoting both from Ayler’s tunes and the Dixieland brass-band classic “Saint James Infirmary.” (Ayler too had been inspired by the full-section simultaneous soloing of early New Orleans jazz.) By 1997, when the same lineup recorded the two-volume set Little Birds Have Fast Hearts, the group had developed an artistic personality of its own, articulating better than any of Brötzmann’s other projects the spacious, lyrical side of his music. But it’s no small task to assemble four busy performers who live on three continents, so the quartet sometimes replaces Kondo with New York-based trumpeter Roy Campbell, as it will here. Kondo usually processes his trumpet sound electronically, so Campbell’s untreated horn, though it’s less unearthly, in some ways brings the band closer to its original inspiration; on From Valley to Valley (Eremite), recorded in ’98, his fleet, fluttering lines evoke Don Cherry, who played with both Ayler and Brötzmann in the 60s. Saturday, 9:30 PM, Velvet Lounge, 21281/2 S. Indiana; 312-791-9050. Bill Meyer
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Laurence M. Svirchev/Gary Hannabarger.