The sophomore release of the trio featuring German reed legend Peter Brotzmann, Japanese koto iconoclast Michiyo Yagi and Norwegian master drummer Paal Nilssen-Lovefollowing Head On (Idiolect, 2008)is a remarkable demonstration of how energy and power transform into spiritual catharsis. It's easy to understand why this trio was named the Spirit & Power Trio during its Japanese tour, few months after this release was recorded.
It's not about muscular, full onslaught, raw power, as is often mistakenly associated with Brötzmann's many projects, but uncompromising energy that seizes the musicians, their audience and the music, turning it all into oneone spiritual entity that releases the ego's excessive burdens, abolishes artificial musical conventions and genres boundaries, and allows the art's full captivating power to be grasped. Experiencing as great a performance as this, it's difficult not to beg for more.
Recorded live at the end of a ten-city Norwegian tour, in the Western fjord town of Volda, and captured beautifully by master sound engineer Audun Strype, all three musicians are in top form. Brötzmann is nuanced and heartfelt and Yagi is all over the kotoproducing ripples of plucked and twisted stringswhile Nilssen-Love pushes forward with a fluid rhythmic framework.
"Volda i," the first in this three-part suite, begins to boil slowly, as attentive interplay that the trio forged in previous tours is featured. There's even a meditative passage in the middle of this 23-minutes piece, with Yagi improvising on a dense pattern and Nilssen-Love slowly building a matching polyrhythmic base, before Brötzmann returns to lead the trio into a focused, energetic climax. Yagi moves to the 17-strings koto and uses it as modified bass instrument, with resonating deep tones that contrast with Brötzmann's soaring sax calls, before reaching a slow and spare coda.
"Volda ii" begins with short solo improvisations by each member of the trio, each focused on the sound qualities of their respective instrumentstouch, length, elastics, breath and overtonesand methodically forming a common ground for patient, open-ended interplay. It all melts into "Volda iii," a magnificent spiritual conclusion. The energy is in its weight, and all three musicians produce layer-upon-layer of imaginative, tight, and carefully rich, nuanced playing. The tension continues to rise, drawing into a powerful whirlpool of sounds that demand repeat listens.
Personnel: Peter Brotzmann: alto and tenor saxophones, clarinet, taragato; Michiyo Yagi: 21-string koto, 17-string bass koto; Paal Nilssen-Love: drums