To the uninitiated audience, a performance by the Peter Broetzmann Tentet may seem cacophonous, potentially unendurable and incomprehensible. Nothing could be further from the truth. The most salient means to identify with a performance of this group is, without resistance, to fall into the energy, sincerity and the joy underlying the making of the music.
The Tentet is a group of musicians that fluctuates in personnel. For some reason, I always thought that this ensemble would forever stay the same. Perhaps its impact lends credibility to that idea. All ten musicians and their instruments were crammed onto the tiny stage at this venue. Perhaps their proximity allowed for the musicians’ incredible relatedness to one another in the performance. But I heard later from two of the musicians that they love the band and were having the best time ever on this tour, which was long and tough and worth every minute. The brothership which bonded the band cut the template for the ultimate in creativity.
At the beginning of the concert, everyone waited for Broetzmann to open an entry portal on his taragato. When the moment occurred, a surge of sound came from all but the trumpet and the tuba. The band had announced itself. The trumpet fluttered its way into a maintained pitch. A gradual deconstruction of all the unity came down to a single note. The trumpet soloed above all the instruments to take the entire band into a groove of sorts as the trumpet carved a rhythmic content into a melody. That melody was synchronized by the pocket trumpet. Out of the morass came neatness and organization, and a song that portended the tight interaction throughout the music that would follow.
The band members communicated among themselves as if telepathic messages wafted through the air from one musician to another. Groups within the group would single themselves out to lunge into conversations that would easily fold back into the context of the whole. Solos rose out of the density of intersecting lines; duos and trios aggregated in the midst of drumming abstractions. A collection of discrete tones constituted the atmosphere. No musician handed off a riff to another musician. The musicians inherited the lines from another. That fluidity blended the sometimes inherently raucous nature of the music. You would hear when instruments dropped out of the musical episodes; you could detect when an instrument entered. You would want to know the origin of every sound, because that clarity of knowing enlivened the music even more.
What was extremely valuable to perceive was the connectivity that existed even when the entire band was not playing. And when the entire band was playing, each member was listening and responding to another member, no matter how out of step they may have seemed to be. Definite, recognizable harmonies were struck. Constellations of sonic explosions abounded. Not one player sank into the background.
Applause goes to every member in the band. Their amazing abilities to maintain coherence within a seemingly structureless procedure speaks to the fearlessness of each musician to go with it, to expand and contract, to counter and to coincide, to create melodies and abstractions, to adapt to new sounds and further define repeatable forms and interrelationships.
Applause also goes to the band’s dedicated audience. This audience has to spread the word that the Tentet expresses so well musically.
I once dubbed the Tentet as an orchestra for the 21st century. My mind has not changed.
The members of the ensemble are: Peter Broetzmann, reeds; Mats Gustafsson, reeds; Ken Vandermark, reeds; Magnus Broo, trumpet; Per-Ake Holmlander, tuba; Joe McPhee, pocket trumpet and saxophone; Kent Kessler, bass; Fred Lonberg-Holm, cello; Paal Nilssen-Love, drums; Michael Zerang, drums.