Peter Kowald | Off The Road | a movie directed by Laurence Petit-Jouvet | RogueArt Jazz

rogueart jazz 2 DVDs + 1 CD


A movie directed by Laurence Petit-Jouvet. With Hamid Drake, William Parker, Laurence Petit-Jouvet, Peter Kowald, Kidd Jordan, Alvin Fielder, George Lewis, Anna Homler, Marco Eneidi, Eddie Gale, Donald Robinson, Fred Anderson.

72 min, color, in English, French subtitles. Compatible worldwide with any device manufactured later than 1995.

The German bassist Peter Kowald (1944-2002) was one of the major figures of Free Improvised Music. The film OFF THE ROAD was made on and around his extended tour of the USA in 2000. A journey around America in an old Chevrolet Caprice, the film is a “free improvised road movie” featuring encounters with many of the great names of Free Music, set against the background of “Off The Road” America.


A movie directed by Laurence Petit-Jouvet.

Peter Kowald live at the 2000 Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music (in trios with Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake, and with Floros Floridis & Günter “Baby” Sommer), and in the studio (Kowald solo and in a duo with Ken Vandermark), plus interviews with all the musicians.

83 min, color, in English, French subtittles. Compatible worldwide with any device manufactured later than 1995


William Parker/Peter Kowald duo | Kidd Jordan/Peter Kowald/Alvin Fielder trio | Peter Kowald solo | George Lewis/Peter Kowald duo | Anna Homler/Peter Kowald duo | Marco Eneidi/Eddie Gale/Peter Kowald/Donald | Robinson quartet | Fred Anderson/Peter Kowald/Hamid Drake trio

Liner Notes: William Parker, Laurence Petit-Jouvet. Photographs: Laurence Petit-Jouvet, Martin Wheeler

Track list: 1. Introduction (00.17) 2. New York March 17th (13.58) 3. New Orleans April 6th (11.22) 4. Houston April 9th (8.44) 5. San Diego April 14th (10.55) 6. Los Angeles April 15th (7.56) 7. Berkeley May 3rd (12.19) 8. Chicago May 10th (10.13)

Peter Kowald | Off The Road | a movie directed by Laurence Petit-Jouvet | rogueart jazz

Peter Kowald | Photo by Gérard Rouy

Pretty much anyone who ever met the German bassist Peter Kowald

has a story to tell. His commitment to community, to creative spirit, seemed to provide him with a charmed life. Laurence Petit-Jouvet’s 2001 documentary Off the Road doesn’t get into the many stories get told about Kowald—it isn’t quite a biopic—but it does serve as a window into the persona that, along with a deep understanding of communicating through music, made him the embodiment of the creative spirit.

Petit-Jouvet followed Kowald on an unbooked tour across the United States in 2000, two years before his untimely death at 58. The film—now available as a part of a three-disc set from the French label RogueArt—opens with Kowald buying a used car in New York and setting out across the southern states, to the West Coast and then to Chicago, meeting people and setting up ad hoc gigs en route. Needless to say there’s plenty of great music along the way, meetings with Kidd Jordan, George Lewis, Rashied Ali, Pamela Z and many others. But the best parts of the film show Kowald without his bass: engaging a panhandler on the street, talking to people and learning about Martin Luther King and Native American culture, even seeming bemusedly curious about why his old station wagon broke down.

The 72-minute film doesn’t include a lot of music, just passing scenes along the journey. But it’s wisely packaged here with another Petite-Jouvet film from the same tour. Chicago Improvisations documents Kowald in the studio and at the Empty Bottle Festival. If the music is secondary in Off the Road, here the performances stand out against the brief interview segments. He’s seen in trios with Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake and with Floros Floridis and Gunther “Baby” Sommer, nicely shot with multiple cameras and good quality sound, and in the studio playing solo and with Ken Vandermark. And if the savvy listener still seeks more sounds, the set comes with an audio CD, also recorded along the 2000 trail. — Kurt Gottschalk

Hurray for the courage of the French label RogueArt

for releasing this superb double DVD + CD in one package, documenting a visit by Peter Kowald to the United States in 2000. And not only their courage is laudable, also the unbelievable quality of the two DVD’s. The first one is basically “On The Road”, giving a kind of chronological overview of Kowald’s trip, visits, car problems, meetings, street dialogues, snippets of performances with artists across the US, including Kidd Jordan, Marco Eneidi, Alvin Fielder (not “Fidler” as the cover announces), George Lewis, Assif Tsahar, Rashied Ali. There is music to be heard, for sure, but the overall impression of a musician on the road is the main theme, and Laurence Petit-Jouvet’s documentary is so rich in content and so well filmed, that it could stand on its own, probably even of interest to people not interested in Kowald himself. The second DVD gives basically four performances, one live at the Empty Bottle with Floros Floridis on reeds and Günther Baby Sommer on drums, the second with Ken Vandermark in a studio, the third with Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake, and the fourth, the grand finale, approx 10 minutes of Kowald solo in the studio. Some of these takes can be viewed on YouTube, but they are not available for download. Apart from the sometimes great performances, the short interviews in between with the artists are often interesting and even enlightening, talking about cultural interaction, freedom (in music and society), universal language, emotional rapport, transcending one’s own self-created limitations, etc.

Some of the most interesting performances (but unfortunately not the one with Floridis and Sommer) are to be found on the CD : a bass duet with William Parker, the trio with Jordan and Fielder, a duet with George Lewis on trombone, a duet with vocalist Anna Homler, a quartet with Marco Eneidi on reeds, Eddie Gale on trumpet and Donald Robinson on drums, and then the trio with Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake, and another magnificent solo bass piece, this one performed live.

The frustrating thing about this package is that you know that much of it remained unrecorded (or recorded yet unreleased). And on the other hand not everything is successful either, or at least not always to my taste. Yet for those interested, some of the performances were released by other labels, such as “Illuminations” with Gino Robair and Miya Masaoka or “Deals, Ideas and Ideals” with Tsahar and Rashied Ali and “Ghetto Calypso” with Marco Eneidi, Damon Smith and Spirit. A great document on a great bass player.Stef


Double DVD + CD version (incl. shipment cost world-wide)

$ 47.00
Out of Stock

Leave a Review

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.