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Peter Kowald Festival: A Future Retrospective

As producer of the Peter Kowald Festival, local improviser Damon Smith intends to pay tribute to the renowned German contrabassist who changed his life. After hearing Kowald's ferocious free jazz for the first time, so the story goes, the Minutemen-obsessed Smith abandoned his electric axe and punk rock for an upright bass and the open road of improvisation. It's likely a common scenario; along with Deutschland comrades Peter Brotzmann and Alexander von Schlippenbach, Kowald pioneered approaches to improvised music in the late '60s and early '70s that still resonate today. The bassist's 35-year commitment to forward-jazz exploration has made his classic vinyl sides on FMP, the seminal record label he helped start in 1969, prized collector's items among the cult of improv enthusiasts worldwide.


Peter Kowald appears in two quartets (with Positive Knowledge and with Marco Eneidi, Eddie Gale, and Donald Robinson) on Wednesday, May 3, at 8 p.m. at the Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Tickets are $5-10 sliding scale; call (510) 841-2082. He also performs in a trio (with Miya Masaoka and Gino Robair) and as the soloist-conductor of Marco Enedi's American Jungle Orchestra on Thursday, May 4, at 8 p.m. at the Luggage Store Gallery, 1007 Market (at Sixth Street), S.F. Tickets are $6-10 sliding scale; call 255-5971.

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If you missed the previous events in this five-part series of concerts designed to showcase the breadth of the bassist's multitentacled vision, from solos and duets to big band, you still have an opportunity to catch Kowald in world-class company. Wednesday night's quartets look promising in the paradoxical pairing of Positive Knowledge's earthy grooves with the German's rhythmic futurism. The wailing front line of seasoned New York expats Marco Eneidi (alto sax) and Eddie Gale (trumpet) will likely echo the vibrancy of the loft-jazz heyday. On Thursday evening, expect to be delightfully confounded when the bassist pits his extraordinary artistry against the post-jazz chops of arch sound architects Miya Masaoka (koto, electronics) and Gino Robair (percussion); the festival closes with an avalanche of color when Kowald conducts Marco Eneidi's American Jungle Orchestra.

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