Published May 18, 2019The musical partnership between Peter Brötzmann and Heather Leigh is one of those anomalies akin to the internet memes of bonds between armadillos and ocelots who become unlikely friends. Brötzmann's usually aggressive saxophone workmanship finds, in Leigh's pedal steel play, an open and grandly resonant space to skim across, dive into or create tsunami-scale disruptions. But what happens when someone tosses a Keiji Haino-shaped hand grenade into the mix?
For the first 15 or so minutes of the performance, things felt tenuous. All three were playing with verve and intensity, but mostly parallel to each other, missing moments to engage in non-destructive ways. Eventually, Haino adjusted the tone of his guitar to an elemental pitch of tone and noise that slid between the other two musicians with what passed for comfort in this feverish performance. From then on, the players easily split off into duo and solo moments, eventually returning to the fold.
After 50 years of ripping off roofs around the world, Brötzmann's still-evolving versatility continues to impress, and he provided the most obvious bridge between all the elements, casually switching and varying attacks from saxophone to clarinet when the moment suggested. Haino was easily the most restless, playing with his trademark intensity and switching from guitar to horn to alien Theremin, ever tweaking each sound and creating jagged clusters and loops that quickly expired.
In her quietly steadfast manner though, it was Leigh who stealthily conducted the flow of the entire performance. Repeating patterns that slowly and deliberately varied and vibrated, she created a nearly invisible pull of gravity that would draw the energy from the other two towards her, sublimating or redirecting it into new orbits.