September-3rd-2004, 10:59 AM
Sonore (Brotzmann/Vandermark/Gustafsson) Kalamazoo, 9/2/04
The prospect of three powerhouse saxophonists like Peter Brotzmann, Ken Vandermark, and Mats Gustafsson joining forces for an evening of pure music, prompted a nice group of us Detroiters to make the two hour trek to Kalamazoo MI., home to many a brewpub. Kraftbrau Brewery hosted the event which was recorded by the band and by Blue Lake Public Radio. The trio, Sonore, performed the second night of a tour that began at the Empty Bottle in Chicago on Wednesday and will take them to Tornoto, NYC, Pittsburgh and other stops along the way. I would highly suggest that any fans of their music who are within a few hours of a venue, make the effort to see them. Last night's gig in Kalamazoo was a truly extraordinary experience.
I can't take notes during a music performance. I began by trying to list the different combinations of horns for each piece but quickly put my pen down to just listen. Brotzmann played the tenor sax, alto sax, a-clarinet, and taragato. Vandermark was on tenor sax, baritone sax, clarinet, and bass clarinet. Gustafsson was on tenor sax, baritone sax, and fluteophone. They pretty much stuck to a format of using one instrument for each piece that lasted approx. 10-15 minutes.
The trio began with a charge out of the gates, all three wailing away on tenor saxophones. There was plenty of this high-energy free improv throughout the evening, but also moments of lush harmonies, mournful cries, high pitched squeals, multiphonics, rythmic patterns, clicks and pops, and even a nicely deconstructed ballad. They performed in trio for about 75% of the sets, broke down into duos for about another 20% or so, and each played some short solo segments as well.
There were some real treats throughout the performance. Like hearing Mats on the fluteophone. I haven't seen him play the fluteophone since the days that Aaly Trio + Vandermark were touring. For those not familiar with it, the fluteophone is basically an instrument made from the body of the flute and the mouthpiece and reed of a saxophone. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying it, but that's basically what it looks like. But I think the real treat with Mats was his baritone playing. He has to be one of the strongest voices on the bari, and the sounds that he was coaxing out of it were just incredible. All done within the context of the piece and keeping a good sense of forward movement to the music.
Brotzmann was in fine form, exuberant, powerful, soulful, and always right on top of the music. That's one thing that struck me was, no matter what direction or mood the pieces were taking, it was always moving and jumping in a kind of celebratory way. Peter played some of the most exquisite, heartfelt tenor and alto, sometimes joyful, sometimes mournful, but always intense. His taragato feature was beautiful with (I think I recall) Vandermark on bass clarinet and Mats on fluteophone.
Vandermark was, as usual, strong and consistent. His baritone playing, at times, would set a pulse to a piece, but then he would play all around that pulse. He was equally great on all four of his reeds. Ken was obviously having a great time and the joy of creating this music was heard and seen through all three of the musicians.
I've heard a lot of good music so far this year, but this performance by Sonore would have to top the list. Hope you guys in NYC enjoy it at Tonic!