7 June 2009


Spent Thursday afternoon resting a bit, getting some practicing in, wandering around, then I met Joe McPhee, Kent Kessler, and Jeb to have dinner with Heinz Henning, who picked us up at the airport and coordinates concerts at a venue called the Martinschlossl. At around midnight I met DD Kern and Lisi at the Rhiz, and talked the merits of James Brown and Stax drummer, Al Jackson, among other things. DD had been making some cash playing drums for a Freddy Mercury impersonator, the only other musician on stage, everything else supplied by backing tracks. There were complaints about the noise (not the content) of the show, so they had to bring the volume down to under 75 decibels. This meant that DD’s first and only entrance on electronic drums was a near silent, “pap, pappy, pap-a-pap,” not the thundering beat necessary to make Queen come across “correctly.” The audience’s laughter at this drum break was louder than the music on stage.

Friday morning I went to the Albertina museum, hoping to see the Batliner collection along with some Rembrandt. But it seems that the Batliner permanent loan doesn’t mean permanent display. So there was a fine Rembrandt self portrait and a very expensive espresso to enjoy. Frustrated, I decided to go back to the Wien Museum Karlsplatz and revisit the “Big City Photography” exhibit. Once again I was blown away by the pictures of Saul Leiter and Gary Winograd, but this time I was also really impressed by Louis Faurer and Charles Harbutt, 2 black and white photographers that I was unfamiliar with. Back to the hotel to be driven to the town of Rudersdorf, outside of Graz, to meet the rest of the band for sound check, dinner, and concert [the ensemble’s regular lineup has been: Peter Brotzmann (reeds), Johannes Bauer and Jeb Bishop (trombone), Mats Gustafsson (baritone), Per-Ake Holmlander (tuba), Kent Kessler (bass), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello/electronics), Joe McPhee (on this tour- pocket trumpet, flugelhorn, alto), Paal Nilssen-Love and Michael Zerang (drums), myself]. The weather was lousy, with bad thunderstorms, but things cleared up well enough for the show, and people dealt with the conditions, giving us a nice audience to start the trip. Met Michael Haberz and Erika, who talked of their visit to the West Coast of the States and his impressions of the architecture out there; plus other listeners who had made the trip from Graz and elsewhere in Austria (one fan, Lennart, had come all the way from Stockholm). I felt that the band played well. Our last concerts, in Oslo during February, had been a turning point for the ensemble, I think. Peter’s request that the group use more discipline in its individual choices had put the ensemble into a considered mode which occasionally, in my opinion, caused the music to momentarily stall; people were being too cautious about over-playing, hesitating sometimes when the music needed a constant flow of ideas to work. The show on the 22nd seemed more confident as a whole.

The next morning it was back to Vienna, some lunch with Heinz, Joe and Jeb, but then too late to make it to a camera shop near the Westbahnhof to check out their old Leica collection. Was thinking of trying to buy one while I was in town, but as things turned out, it was probably fortunate to be unfortunate in this case. The band’s 2 sets at Porgy & Bess were superb, the group moved effortlessly between duos, combos, and full ensemble interplay; a huge variety of textures and ideas, improvisations filled with surprise. The full hall shared its enthusiasm for the music, and their energy fed back into the creative systems on stage A really great night of music. Afterwards I met up with DD and Lisi again, plus a bunch of the Nickelsdorf crew, and Guenter Werner from the Blue Tomato. Too much fun to call it a night, so I continued on with some of the folks and Joe McPhee at Guenter’s place, figuring the train trip to Krakow would give me a chance to catch up on sleep. This chance to talk more directly with Joe was the first of many on the trip, our discussions about the struggle to remain creative in our search for new artistic ground kept me inspired during time when I have been feeling immense personal frustration over my playing, and my contributions to the Tentet’s music.

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