It felt like a race.
Han Bennink hit the drums with startling force – a shot in the air. Peter Brotzmann got a head start as a flutter of notes came out of his saxophone. Peter Evans, seemingly the underdog, raced ahead, the volume and speed of both his fingers and the notes emanating from his trumpet rivaling Brotzmann’s heady sound. Tom Blancarte seemed solitary, calm, apart from the rest, his hair covering his face as he concentrated on his bass. Bennink’s ever-evolving drumbeat echoed the tension, suspense, adrenaline beating in everyone’s hearts. All four men’s hands seemed to be moving at a million miles per hour.
We held our breaths.
Evans and Blancarte, both New York City locals, had the most to prove. After all, they were playing (competing?) with two jazz giants. Bennink, from Holland, and Brotzmann, from Germany, were forerunners of the European free jazz movement of the 1960s. They are both known for their explosive playing style. Evans, whose solo records have him experimenting with sputtering, spitting, noiseless sound, and other quiet trumpet techniques, seemed up for the challenge though. When he and Brotzmann played head to head, it was exhilarating.
At times, it felt as if they were playing to see who could be the loudest. Brotzmann was almost always just a little bit louder – but by the second set, Evans learned to stand his ground, daring to play with the quieter sounds reserved for his solo and group recordings.
Though Bennink and Blancarte were always right behind them, the real race was ultimately between Brotzmann and Evans. By the end of the night, Evans’ noiseless sound was overpowering Brotzmann’s unrelenting voice. If this were a race in any way at all, Evans was the clear winner.
If this were a race in any way at all – racing hearts, hands, notes, sounds – then it was one hell of a race.