Graham Reid | | 4 min read
Anyone who had the gut strength and emotional resilience to undertake German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann's astonishing, heroic, muscular and often sensitive solo performance in Auckland a few years ago (see a review here) will be thrillingly fearful in knowing this giant of free jazz -- and an utterly singular performer -- is returning for another short tour.
But this time he brings with him someone who, superficially at least, seems very different.
As with country legend Loretta Lynn, pedal steel guitarist Heather Leigh is a literal coal miner's daughter (in her case born in a Scottish-populated working class town in West Virginia but she mostly grew up in Texas).
But this daughter has long been hailed in the alt.universe (playing alongside Thurston Moore for example) and whatever underground still exists where she has played as much high, wide and lonesome as explored the darkness (as on her 2016 album I Abused Animal, see below).
So how does this woman who relocated to Scotland a decade ago come to sing her ethereal songs and play that sometimes heaven-aspiring lap steel come to play with the stentorian tones of Brotzmann?
“I’ve wanted to play with Peter for a long time,” she matter-of-factly told Fact on-line magazine early last year. “But I knew it was one of those situations where I couldn’t just say, 'Hey, come play a pub in the UK with me.'
“So I emailed Peter, and it was half confidence, half a bit cheeky as well, but I was like, 'Peter, let’s do this. It’ll fucking rule.' I almost didn’t give him a choice. I prepared myself that he would say no, because he doesn’t just collaborate with anyone.
“He’s a tough cookie.
“But he was super-enthusiastic about it, right away.
“When we had our soundcheck – this is not usually my style, but I got a bit nervous, and I was kind of tentative. I thought, oh shit, this is really happening! There was maybe part of me that didn’t want to show all my cards, or totally play out before the concert, but I was quite nervous.
“So in between the soundcheck and the actual performance, I didn’t really have that much to drink or anything, I had a whiskey. I remember, as I was walking out of the bar, I was with David and a friend, and as I was walking away the friend called down the street, 'Don’t let him intimidate you!'
“Peter’s such an open person, and I think going into that we thought, we’ll try this, and if it doesn’t work that’s okay. I was pretty confident that it would work very well, and that [Tectonics Festival in Glasgow] was really full blast intensity. It was dynamic, there were moments where we almost went into ballads together, but my playing especially was very full-on, fuzz, electric, tactile playing.
“I didn’t even stop for that performance. Brötzmann didn’t even get a solo [laughs]. “After we played, I thought, oh, wasn’t that cheeky. But that’s the way it was.
“So I knew right away with that concert that it would be the first of many.”
And among that many are appearances around New Zealand (see details below), a country both are familiar with having toured separately in the past.
For those in the know (and that now includes you), or those prepared to take a chance on music which challenges, excites, aims both low and high (bread-basket punch and cerebral cortex engagement) these concerts – in up-close venues where you'll be inside the free-fire zone – are not to be missed.
Beforehand check out their album together.
It is called . . . .
It is on Spotify here.
It is . . . . something else/elsewhere!
Elsewhere interviewed Peter Brotzmann in 2014 here.
PETER BROTZMANN AND HEATHER LEIGH TOUR
Friday 24th November @ Auckland
Unitarian Church, Auckland
Sunday 26th November @ Purple Pilgrims HQ, Tapu, Coromandel
Tuesday 28th November @ Whakatāne Museum and Galleries, Whakatāne
Thursday 30th November @ The Common Room, Hastings
Saturday 2nd December @ Meow, Wellington
Sunday 3rd December @ Derek and Anne's, Featherston
Thursday 7th December @ Fairfield House, Nelson
Friday 8th December @ Tim’s Place, Marahau.
Thursday 14th December @ The Gym, Christchurch Arts Centre, Christchurch
Saturday 16th December @ Hanover Hall, Dunedin