Photo by Peter Gannushkin

The Heavyweights

The Heavyweights Peter Brötzmann and two seminal figures of Japanese avant garde jazz, pianist Masahiko Satoh and drummer Takeo Moriyama are returning to Europe in October 2017 after 5 years since their meeting during the “Long Story Short” edition of the Music Unlimited Festival, curated by Peter Brötzmann.


Peter Brötzmann is one of the most important and uncompromising figures in free jazz and has been at the forefront of developing a unique, European take on free improvisation since the 1960s. 

Brötzmann first trained as a painter and was associated with Fluxus (Participating in various events and working as an assistant to Nam Jun Paik) before dissatisfaction with the art world moved his focus towards music. However he continued to paint and his instantly recognisable visual sensibility has produced some of our favourite LP sleeves as well as a number of gallery shows in recent years.

Self-taught on Clarinet and Saxophone, Brötzmann established himself as one of the most powerful and original players around, releasing a number of now highly sought after sides of musical invention including the epochal Machine Gun session in 1968 – originally released on his own Brö private press and later recordings for FMP (Free Music Production) the label he started with Jost Gebers.

Brötzmann's sound is one of the most distinctive, life-affirming and joyous in all music and he has performed with almost all of the major players of free music from early associations with Don Cherry and Steve Lacy to regular groupings with Peter Kowald, Alex Von Slippenbach, Han Bennink and Fred Van Hove, the Chicago Tentet (Mats Gustafsson, Joe McPhee, Ken Vandermark, etc.) and various one-off and ad hoc associations with many others including Keiji Haino, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Anthony Braxton and Rashied Ali.

Born in Tokyo in 1941. Graduated from Keio University. Studied music composition and arrangement at Berklee School of Music in Boston from 1966 to 1968 on a Downbeat Magazine scholarship. Created own production label BAJ Records in 1997. Created the chair of Non-idiomatic Improvisation at Tokyo University of the Arts in 2009. The chief instructor at the music college Mesar Haus since 1981.

Participated in recordings as composer and arranger with artists such: Nancy Wilson, Helen Merrill, Wayne Shorter, Art Farmer, Eddie Gomez, Steve Gadd, Hank Jones, Toots Thielmans, Gary Peacock, Roy Haynes, Alex Acuna, Harvey Mason, etc.

Participated in performances and recordings as improviser with artists such: Lauren Newton, Joelle Leandre, Peter Brotzmann, Pierre Favre, Steve Lacy, Jean Francois Jenny-Clark, Albert Mangelsdorff, Anthony Braxton, Ned Rothenberg, Adelhard Roidinger, Karl Berger, Peter Wallen, Allen Blairman, Kang Tae Hwan, to name a few.

Important albums: Palladium (1969) "Japan Jazz Award" by Swing Journal Magazine; Four Jazz Compositions (1970); Yamataifu (1972) "Award of Exellency" at the National Art Festival of Japan; Chagall Blue (1980); Amorphism (1985); Concerto for the WAVE III and orchestra (1988); Select Live Under The Sky '90 (1990) "Japan Jazz Award" by Swing Journal Magazine; Buddhist Music with 1000 Syomyo Voices (1993); Stoy (1997); Decisive Action (2003); Live at Moers Tribute to Togashi Masahiko (2005); Yatagarasu (2012).

Jazz festival appearance: A Larme Festival Berlin, Donaueschingen Musiktage, Moers Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, East Meets West In New York, North Sea in Rotterdam, All Ears in Oslo, Music Unlimited in Wels, Krakow Jazz Autumn Festival.

Japanese jazz drummer. Born in 1945 in Katsunuma, Yamanashi Prefecture.

Current tour dates

Oct 12, 2017 - Oct 22, 2017


Contact us if you want to offer a date for this tour, and we will advise you on availability.


The Heavyweights
Yatagarasu (Not Two Records)

Yatagarasu in The Wire's top 50 albums of 2012

Improvised music in Europe has developed out of American free jazz, without the first musicians of that genre (and Peter Brötzmann is one of them) being simple epigones. Even his early works like his trio with Fred Van Hove (piano) and Han Bennink (drums) were bold and independent, yet unfinished sketches of a new music, a typical standing-on-the-shoulders-of-giants thing. This is why some improvisers, who claim the outstanding and ultimate originality of their music being only indebted to moment and interaction, are only partly right. Non-idiomatic improvisation is not reduced if you consider individual and genre-related history as parts of what is happening in this music. If Sigmund Freud was right and men do everything deliberately, then a reflection with consciously or unconsciously and inevitably used knowledge of musical history helps to create and understand this great, dazzling and wonderful network of contemporary free jazz. 

Peter Brötzmann has always known that. In “Soldier of the Road”, a documentary about him, he says that he considers himself a “middle European guy” with all the history (and the clichés – even the negative ones) it brings with it. He knows that he is influenced by Sidney Bechet and Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman (in other words: the blues), but also by German brass bands and political folk songs (as you can see in his version of “Einheitsfrontlied” with Van Howe and Bennink). 

In all the reviews of this week you can see that there is a certain linearity and consistency in Brötzmann’s approach. On “Yatagarasu” he teams up with Masahiko Satoh (piano) and Takeo Moriyama (drums) which refers to his trio with Van Howe and Bennink (see above) and their seminal albums “Balls” (1970) and “Tschüss” (1975). Although Brötzmann has also released similar trios with Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink (“3 Points and a Mountain”), Alex von Schlippenbach and Sven-Ake Johannson (“Up and Down the Lion”) and Marilyn Crispell and Hamid Drake (“Hyperion”) over the years, this line-up is relatively rare in his work. 

“Yatagarasu” is an almost classical album, an iconoclastic outbreak, just because Satoh’s and Moriyama’s ways of playing differ completely from those of the musicians mentioned above although both of them are Japanese free jazz veterans of Brötzmann’s generation as well. Especially Satoh draws on the unlimited resources of jazz history in a way – let’s say – Matthew Shipp does it as well. While Fred Van Howe is mainly a sound pioneer exploring the limits of the piano and Marilyn Crispell has a rather romantic approach somehow, Satoh’s playing is based on his education as a classical composer and on swing and modern jazz. Moriyama, in contrast, is a very skilled listener, trying to provide maximum back up for his comrades. His style differs from Bennink, who has always tried to include humorous and clownesque aspects, and Drake, who is deeply rooted in African-American jazz, in a way that he is reserved but absolutely determined and focused. In the end the trio somehow reminds me of Cecil Taylor’s band on his early release “Nefertiti, the Beautiful One has come”.  The album consists of two larger pieces (“Yatagarasu” – a three-legged crow representing the sun in Asian mythology – and “Icy Spears”) and two shorter pieces (“Autumn Drizzle” and “Frozen Whistle”), which are the actual highlights of the CD, especially “Frozen Whistle”, which is just a sketch, is of the utmost beauty. “YAT” is superb, conservative (in a positive way) free jazz. — Martin Schray, Multikulti

Peter Brötzmann is one of those musicians who people tend to discuss whenever the conversation turns to whether or not free jazz’s signature of unbridled passionate intensity is natural or forced. (“C’mon, nobody feels anything that intensely for 90 minutes straight!”) Personally, I think Brötzmann negates the question completely. The man is a force of nature. Yeah, his reputation says he’s a screamer, Europe’s Ayler, whatever – but this is simply focusing on his patented knockout punch. Admittedly, he can deliver that punch for 20 minutes straight but his approach is not singular by any means, as this disc (and his entire discography) proves. Yatagarasu is his trio with Takeo Moriyama on drums & Masahiko Satoh on piano; and this disc was recorded in front of a very lucky audience in Poland last year. 

The first track, “Yatagarasu,” (named for a Japanese Crow God) opens with a bang. Long vibrato melodic fragments bellow out of Brotzmann’s sax, supported freely by Moriyama while Satoh stabs wild chords on the piano. (Imagine Rashied Ali and Alice Coltrane playing with Ayler.)

The trio reaches a feverish intensity shortly after the seven minute mark that doesn’t really pull back for three minutes, which – not surprisingly – turns out to be a mere warm-up for this band. This track also features a drum solo by Moriyama about 17 minutes in, before Brötzmann appears for some slow(er) and spacious duo action. The track builds to another amazing crescendo before crashing to a screeching halt.

Satoh and Brötzmann begin “Icy Spears” by playing in the upper registers of their respective instruments. Satoh plays from the post-Cecil school, utilizing plenty of staccato punch and space. In the second section of this track, Brotzmann works up a smoky Ben Webster impression while Satoh finds a softer way of dicing up the keys and Moriyama works the brushes; but by the 12:30 mark they’re reaching another peak of fiery intensity. Then Satoh gets a spot to himself, sounding not unlike Matthew Shipp in the way that his playing is purposeful and precise but still open to any and all possibilities. Brötzmann enters playing long, pretty notes, prompting Satoh to bang out quick, sharp, discordant runs in the upper register of the piano. Naturally, Brötzmann's response is to squeal harder and higher, throwing Satoh to the floor to bang on the lower keys. 

“Autumn Drizzle” opens with Satoh playing what sounds like “Cecil Chopsticks” and then it gets solid. Moriyama jumps in and matches the piano groove with a loony cumbia beat before both begin to approximate the rhythm more freely. By the time Brötzmann arrives it’s turned into a rent party gone to hell with people heaving furniture out of windows, breaking lamps, and shooting the T.V.  A (figurative) foghorn blows a one-note drone at the beginning of “Frozen Whistle” and the drone stays intact throughout via the left hand of Masahiko Satoh. Satoh’s right hand holds down the upper register, leaving the middle to Brötzmann's tarogato and its vaguely Middle Eastern melody. It’s an enigmatic and beautiful short meditative piece, a knockout punch every bit as potent as the one Brötzmann's reputation rests on. — Tom Burris, Free Jazz Blog

Yatagarasu is a welcome rejoinder, finding the reedman in conference with Japanese peers Masahiko Satoh (piano) and Takeo Moriyama (drums). Though one would assume that Brötzmann  would have crossed paths with either or both on festival bills in the ‘70s-80s, this disc is only their second documented meeting, recorded in Krakow. Yatagarasu leaps out of the gates with declarative tenor and many-limbed percussive motion, but it’s Satoh’s smart, romantic classicism and whimsy that immediately separates this music from mere fire and brimstone. The interplay between piano and percussion is truly astounding, Satoh’s blend of East European rhythmic charge and voluminous, knotty flecks a devilish and bright counterpart to Moriyama’s crisp martial beats and chunky tom and cymbal work (in the words of Nigel Tufnel, they “go to eleven”). “Icy Spears” and the two short vignettes that follow are less top-heavy but still wonderfully nuanced, the former a 30-minute storm building from cracking brushwork and burbling keyboard runs into a layered and athletic conduit for Brötzmann’s sinewy tarogato and alto saxophone. — Clifford Allen, New York City Jazz Record

Less than 90 days afterwards, peripatetic Brötzmann performed at Krakow’s Autumn Jazz Festival in another mammoth improvisation captured on Yatagarasu (NotTwo MW 894-2). Billed as The Heavyweights, his associates were both Japanese and his contemporaries: pianist Masihiko Satoh is his age and drummer Takeo Moriyama four years younger.

Despite the abundance of grey hair the set was characterized by the same unparallelled toughness as the others. Another free jazz marvel, Satoh has the matchless technique and indefatigable stamina to match the saxophonist’s snaky inventions, while Moriyama’s double-time paradiddles and martial press rolls open up spacious sound territory. On some tracks, Brötzmann appears to never stop playing, emptying his lungs with staccato whinnies and visceral battle cries. Not that the pianist’s raw-power chording takes second place. Should the saxophonist metaphorically examine every tone facet before letting it loose, then Satoh’s voicing emphasizes each note with key-clipping enthusiasm.

On Icy Spears, the pianist cuts through the cacophony to surprise with low-frequency, cross-handed chording, prodding Brötzmann to briefly slow the tempo with breathy vibrations before deconstructing the line into shards once again. Full-blast saxophone shrills are other Satoh challenges, which he counters by redoubling his kinetic key fanning. Eventually cymbal clashes blend with swelling piano pumps and altissimo reed passion for an expressive climax which appears to have reached the limits of endurance; at least the trio suddenly stops playing. — Ken Waxman, JazzWord

One of the absolute highlights of the (Music Unlimited) Festival. — Martin Schray, Free Jazz Collective

(…) It’s Satoh’s smart, romantic classicism and whimsy that immediately separates this music from mere fire and brimstone. The interplay between piano and percussion is truly astounding, Satoh’s blend of East European rhythmic charge and voluminous, knotty flecks a devilish and bright counterpart to Moriyama’s crisp martial beats and chunky tom and cymbal work (in the words of Nigel Tufnel, they “go to eleven”). — Clifford Allen, New York City Jazz Record

Another free jazz marvel, Satoh has the matchless technique and indefatigable stamina to match the saxophonist snaky inventions; while Moriyama’s double-time paradiddles and martial press rolls open up spacious sound territory. (…) Youthfulness may have a particular meaning in general. Yet when it comes to innovative musical expression, Brötzmann provides the textbook definition. — Ken Waxman, Whole Note

The concert stormed and hurricaned with energy that would shamed legions of youngster's punk rock units. The music hits you right in the eyes. No prisoners allowed. And this energy transferred well onto the recording, while a more balanced and transparent sound reveals more subtle hues of the music. Jazz Alchemist

It’s interesting to hear Brotzmann perform with a pianist, something that I have rarely heard him do. This isn’t just slash and burn experience, but music that moves through different motifs and expressions. Brotzmann’s instantly identifiable sound conquers all, leading toward brilliant sections of interplay. — Music and More

De beste pure freejazzplaat die ik hoorde uit 2012 omdat hij hier wordt gekoppeld aan de hier ten lande betrekkelijk obscure pianist Masahiko Satoh, wiens pianolijnen dit album echt maken: boeiend, complex, avontuurlijk en vaak ook gewoon móói pianospel. Sandokan Moods

Moriyama always comes out like a boxer swinging hard. His speed, power and dynamism are startling at first, resetting your heartbeat and realigning your spine. Then, he goes on to take the energy level even higher. Moriyama is like two drummers, really, creating double the number of rhythms with a full-bodied style. Jazz In Japan

Tags: The Heavyweights, Peter Brötzmann, Masahiko Satoh, Takeo Moriyama, Yatagarasu, FMP, NotTwo
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