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Peter Brötzmann Die Like a Dog Trio
Houston TX, 24 April 2001

The Peter Brötzmann Die Like a Dog Trio, with William Parker on bass and Hamid Drake on drums and percussion, crisscrossed the country in April 2001, and after an appearance at the Empty Bottle Festival in Chicago with guest Fred Anderson, they proceeded south to Austin, Houston, and then New Orleans. The Pauline Oliveros Foundation sponsored the Houston concert at the MECA inner-city cultural center. These musicians have interacted on a regular basis over the last several years, and the professionalism and unity of the Houston set bore out their long association.

Brötzmann opened the concert on taragato with his noted fiery deluge of improvised energy. He sent a rush of electric current through the packed auditorium as he continually bombarded the senses. Sound and emotion poured from the man as heavy artillery fire in cannonade style. Parker was furious as ever on bass, playing at breakneck speed with an arrhythmic beat that matched the intensity of Brötzmann's output. Drake makes a monstrous presence on stage. His giant-like frame and huge hands are in perfect synch with his enormous talent, and he has a dominating effect on the music. He pounded out mixed rhythms that cascaded through the room with crashing authority.

Brötzmann moved to tenor saxophone, and the thunder and fury continued unabated. While he fueled the robust fire, Parker and Drake were displaying a challenging form of rhythmic interplay. The violence of the horn and the controlled rage of the bass and drums made an interesting contrast.

Some of the most fascinating segments of the set occurred when Parker and Drake engaged in ritualistic duets. Drake chanted in hymnal fashion and fingered a large frame drum while Parker played the jogi baja, a screamer reed of Nepal similar to the shanai. On another occasion, Parker played the dousson'goni, an ancient upright string instrument, using his two thumbs to mete out a continuous rhythm while Drake rapped eloquently on percussion.

Die Like a Dog played two enervating sets, and Brötzmann altered his tonality and the mood by moving among the taragato, tenor, and bass clarinet. The Moroccan beat from Drake meshed perfectly with the snake-charmer spirals from Brötzmann's bass clarinet. Instinctively, Parker and Drake supplied the matching intense beat that kept the music moving at full throttle for the duration. It was an electrifying performance that left the crowd drained but begging for more. Eremite Records producer Michael Ehlers accompanied the band on its tour, and I would imagine that he gathered a significant amount of quality music that we hopefully will be hearing on CD in the near future.