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Gigs That Defy Duplication

Friday, the thirteenth of April, in Boston, at the Institute of Contemporary Art, was another performance within the Boston Creative Music Alliance of DIE LIKE A DOG TRIO with guest Joe McPhee. The trio is Peter Brotzmann, reeds, Hamid Drake, drums and William Parker, bass.

Brotzmann played the taragato whose tones automatically lend to the music a sound of the world. He broke the silence of waiting for the music to begin with a line that resembled a call of the wild. Parker sat as he fingered the strings of an instrument that had a neck and tuning pegs like a Japanese shamisen and a gourd body like an Indian tamboura. Drake masterfully sculpted rhythms from his modest drum set. And McPhee intercepted Brotzmann with his pocket trumpet, producing bright, slippery swells. Brotzmann and McPhee conversed with their horns, exchanging distinct notes with fluid lines passing in and out of each other's musical space so that there was no sound void. Brotzmann continued to create torrential energy. Parker and Drake steadily broke through with rhythmic impact. McPhee picked up his alto to play mid-range phrases. Brotzmann turned to get his tenor. The two reedsmen fluttered like there was no tomorrow. The fact that Parker supported the horns with such a delicate string instrument was amazing.

Brotzmann was now in a trance; his head wagged with determination to maintain his sound. Drake introduced McPhee's re-entry with a da-da-da-da striking of the toms. McPhee and Brotzmann held a perfect pitch distance as they harmonized. Parker and Drake switched from polyrhythmic imbalance to a 4/4 pulse. The tenor became calm and then rattled. McPhee provided a continuous line which Brotzmann counteracted with an arched peak. Brotzmann slid down into distinct low tones so that McPhee could insert an inimitable singing, dipping spiritual blues. All the musicians responded with this signal. The music became a hymn.

Parker now had his miked bass in hand. He bowed it solemnly. Then he struck a pattern of plucking and bowing that Drake complemented with strokes of the cymbal to the snare. At this point, Parker was bowing beneath the bridge of the bass with his left hand.

Following the bass's lead, Brotzmann had the taragato. He began with a slow melody and built it into a raging fire. Drake knew instinctively to play in relation to the timbre of each instrument (he knows that he is there to accentuate the details of the interplay of the other musicians). By now, McPhee returned to the pocket trumpet. Parker was bowing the bass with two bows simultaneously as his fingers moved up and down the strings. McPhee serenaded as Parker started to pluck the bass strings. Then McPhee altered the sound sense with direct, pointed, stark notes within the vast rhythmic pools that Drake and Parker created. Brotzmann re-entered with the taragato. The groove was continually sparking. McPhee danced in the flames with the soprano; then, he came out of them with a tight molded line. Brotzmann had his tenor again and could not turn down the heat. Drake did more than just complement the blast; he never missed a stroke, particularly his upswings on the hi-hats. McPhee wailed on the soprano in between Brotzmann's wails on the tenor. There were changes in pitch matched by change in rhythmic speed as all four musicians played along the edge. A razor's edge.

McPhee and Brotzmann walked to each other and I knew how close they were in mind and music. They were in unison. They were closing the circuit. Parker and Drake were moving fast. Brotzmann and McPhee were resolving in a tremendous amount of flurry. There was a marked break into a 4/4 back beat. The soprano came downstream. Drake soloed. McPhee had his alto again. He harmonized intermittently with Brotzmann's tenor. Then.... the music stopped.

This was only the first set. The remainder of the concert had just as much to give as the first set did. Managing to transfer to the reader the impact of the music created by these four incredible musicians is a process of expressing in words the deepest possible passions. The musicians expressed their passions and gave them to me. I feel that it is my task to give them to you with the same intensity. But I cannot do that; I can only hint at it. That is why you have to find these musicians and hear their art. For if you do not, you will have missed the chance of a lifetime.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Die Like A Dog Trio
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