Playbill

Founded as a quartet in 1994 to pay tribute to legendary saxophonist Albert Ayler, German-born Peter Brötzmann's trio is the fiercest and most radical improvised music group currently performing. The trio's medium, free jazz, is not based around a traditional melody. Instead, musicians gather to explore a theme through sound -- more often than not cacophonous -- that may begin with a single saxophone note or pluck of a bass string.

As a teenager in cold-war West Germany, Brötzmann caught wind of a sound somewhere between jazz and swing. This wild, free music was to become his destiny. Then an art student, Brötzmann picked up a clarinet and a saxophone and discovered the tremendous energy and raw power he could derive from his intricate, extemporaneous pieces. Influenced by players like Ayler who removed jazz from its traditional standards and pushed it forward as an art form, Brötzmann recorded improvised compositions and toured the world. Forty years later the still-revolutionary Brötzmann remains in the upper echelon of improvisational music. His work with the saxophone and other reed instruments rivals a hurricane in its primal intensity and splendor.

Making his first ever Houston appearance, Brötzmann is accompanied by two of the founding members of Die Like a Dog, Chicago percussionist Hamid Drake and New York bassist William Parker. Drake is considered the most sought-after free-jazz drummer working. Skilled with the trap set, but also a master of the Indian tabla and African djimbe, Drake brings a multiplicity of beats and tempos to the music. Although he has served many years as a drummer for reggae and R&B groups, he is able to play entirely "free" in the jazz sense.

Snapping the bass strings is the equally inventive Parker. For three decades Parker has been challenging audiences with his unique polyphony. A true free-jazz pioneer, he has worked with David S. Ware, Matthew Shipp and Cecil Taylor, among others.

Die Like a Dog does not sleep like one. It promises to bring unparalleled stamina to the stage. Parker, Drake and Brötzmann are known to create elaborate, visceral sonic murals that stretch for as long as an hour. Between the backbeat, cavorting bass and wailing saxophone, Die Like a Dog's spontaneous creations seize the audience by their collective lapels and ask them to free their minds.

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Elizabeth Taishoff