Sonore Goethe Institute, Toronto ON - September 3, 2004
Published Oct 01, 2004The matrix conjured by Adolphe Sax (inventor of the saxophone) and the likes of such hoodoo shamans as Son House and Howlin' Wolf have given us moments of power that have truly had the ability to alter a person. The saxophone, being a creature of the European industrial revolution, was taken up and pushed to vocal hollers by black America, teaching the rest of the world what it meant to testify. No more potent an examination of this ritual is currently in evidence as Sonore, a reed trio featuring Peter Brötzmann, Mats Gustafsson and Ken Vandermark. I went into the gig excited to witness three extremely strong and individual stylists and wary of the possibility of each playing their own clichés, as opposed to creating music. Fortunately it was apparent from the beginning that compositions were being included, which gave backbone to the cyclones of blistering technique (though the musicians did occasionally fall into tried and true displays of their "isms"). Vandermark seemed to play more as an anchor, with melody lines that reached back into familiar jazz structures while Brötzmann and Gustafsson roared, spat and honked around him. I found, in that, a profound respect for his musicality, in his ability to shift context and his ease in moving between stylistic worlds; it may have been an exercise in excess had Vandermark not been Vandermark. As for Gustafsson, his power, technique and immaculate phrasing reaffirmed my placing of him as one of the best examples of the law as laid down by Rollins and Ayler. Brötzmann alternately played sombre processional melodies and huge blasts of sound that resembled blocks of granite hanging in mid-air. The first set was okay, the second blew me away and, yes, it was all about the blues.