A Night at the Jazz Riots

Peter Brotzmann and Bill Laswell
Low Life
Celluloid : 1987

PB, bass saxophone; BL, electric bass, loops, etc.

“Yeah, so maybe I was looking for a fight that night. But mainly I was jacked up to see the Twitch City reunion. Even Asshole Chuck was playing drums for them again. My buddies and I swallowed some speed and were grinding our teeth and ready to mosh and scream along to “You sit inside a bottle and pretend you’re in a can.” So imagine our reaction when we get to the club and there’s some jazz band on stage playing some bebop bullshit.

“Maybe this was Twitch City’s new idea of cool or maybe they were trying to wind us up with this shitty music, but it wasn’t ten minutes before the first bottle got thrown. Maybe I did it, I can’t remember. But two seconds later, glass is raining down on the band from all sides. The sax player gets smacked in the nose and collapses on the floor clutching his bloody face. The rest of them scram for the exit, not bothering to grab their instruments. People are chanting for Twitch City but some dipshit must have called the pigs because soon there are wailing sirens and swinging billy clubs and overturning tables and we’re scattering and sprinting into the street to avoid getting cuffed and carted. This was still pretty common in those days.

“So that’s when I run into Marco, who lives nearby, and the two of us scramble up the fire escape to his apartment to avoid the cops. I’m sprawled out on his floor and laughing about how jazz musicians are total pussies, when I notice Marco giving me the evil eye. He says I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about and that jazz is the new hardcore. He says he knows some jazz dudes who’d have jumped into the crowd swinging their saxophones and broken plenty of noses. And I’m like, bullshit. So Marco pulls out this album called Low Life. And I’m like, what is this, New Order? Marco says it’s by some dudes from this band called Last Exit and drops the needle.

“At first, it sounds kind of industrial, like Z’ev or Whitehouse or whatever. And I’m like, there is no way this is jazz. But Marco nods his head and sure enough there’s this sax making noises like an open wound. It’s noisy and menacing and sounds pretty okay. So I tell Marco to let it keep playing. The longer I listen, the more hyped up I start to become, and I realize this is giving me the some of the same cranked-up feelings as Twitch City except this time there are no more bottles left to throw.”

–Ronnie “Mad Dog” Mercer, from My Fist, Your Face: An Oral History of the Los Angeles Hardcore Scene (Rip Rock Press, 1993).

Discussion4 Comments Category Bill Laswell, Peter Brötzmann Tags , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to A Night at the Jazz Riots

  1. THIS RECORD is insane, and I say this as a dude who sometimes does not know how he feels about Bill Laswell, but man, Low Life–it’s like Brotzmann and Laswell opened their veins for so long that their blood just naturally turned to liquid metal. It’s the closest sonic approximation of being eaten by errant machines.

    That whole passage you guys quoted is astounding and describes it far better than my attempt, but I just really love this record and am unaware of any peers it might have (more educated people are endowed by the internet with the power to educate me in successive comments).

  2. With such a great narrative setup, that was not at all what I expected to hear…still waiting to have that uberbegeistert Brotzmann experience, I always hear/read about. Any other recommendations from the altar?

  3. This might be totally off the general intent of this interesting (as always) post from you guys, but is this a real book?

    This has nothing to do with how great the album is, but the whole hardcore thing with riots in LA was a.) very real and b.) pretty much over before 1987. However, a lot of punks were getting into “jazz” both around that time and earlier too.

    I am always a bit more than hesitant to equate violence with free improv of any kind, and often wonder if such an understanding might be a misunderstanding of the possibilities suggested by such music. I might even say that about hardcore punk, though. I am prone to finding the love in everything I guess.

  4. These guys rule. Wish we could have acts like them here in the islands


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