Monday, February 20, 2017

Schlippenbach-Quartett - 1975 - Three Nails Left

Three Nails Left

01. Range 23:40
02. Black Holes 12:00
03. Three Nails Left ; For P.L. 4:11

Recorded At – Quartier Latin, Berlin

Bass – Peter Kowald
Percussion – Paul Lovens
Piano – Alex Schlippenbach
Saxophone – Evan Parker

Side 1: rec. live at 3. New Jazz Festival Moers June 2nd, 1974.
Side 2: rec. live at the 'Quartier Latin' Berlin, February 2nd, 1975 with the FMP-Mobile-Recording-Unit.

Schlippenbach began improvising in small ensembles before establishing Globe Unity Orchestra in 1966. But, it has been his work in trio and quartet that has endured for more than forty years. With his collaborators-saxophonist Evan Parker and percussionist Paul Lovens-Schlippenbach has created a model for modern improvising pianists such as orgic-sand Matthew Shipp. These two recordings document two live, 60-minute sets which were edited for their original release. Piecing together fragments of longer improvisations keeps these nine tracks constantly flowing. Of note here is the genesis of the dynamic nature of the ensemble's energy jazz. They display their ability to create this tension (though not through noise) that is juggled, maintained, and nurtured through the interaction of players. The four keep this musical ball aloft for the duration by adding a pulse or trinkle of notes. Parker's signature extended technique, though not as polished then, acts as a fire-starter. Lovens and Kowald are content to turn on, then off their collective intensities. Likewise, Schlippenbach sits silent in parts, while jumping in others with hammered clusters of notes to power this process.

Alexander von Schlippenbach - 1973 - Pakistani Pomade

Alexander von Schlippenbach 
Pakistani Pomade

01. Sun-Luck Night-Rain
02. Butaki Sisters
03. A Little Yellow (Incl. Two Seconds Monk Gema)
04. Ein Husten Für Karl Valentin
05. Pakistani Pomade
06. Von "G" Ab 403-418
07. Moonbeef
08. Kleine Nülle, Evergreen

Bonus Tracks:
09. Pakistani Alternate #1 11:32
10. Pakistani Alternate #2 0:50
11. Pakistani Alternate #3 6:58
12. Pakistani Alternate #4

Drums – Paul Lovens
Piano – Alexander von Schlippenbach
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Evan Parker

Recorded November 1972 in Bremen

The reissue of this 1972 date by Alexander Von Schlippenbach's (arguably) greatest trio is a welcome addition not only to the Unheard Music Series by Atavistic, but also as a return of a brilliant, symbiotic document of European free jazz. That this is European free improvisation cannot -- but listening to these pieces -- be overstated. The sonic, textural, and even harmonic concerns of this trio are very different from, say, Anthony Braxton's quartet at the time or the Art Ensemble of Chicago. In saxophonist Evan Parker and drummer Paul Lovens, Von Schlippenbach found the perfect foils -- a pair of improvisers who had effectively cast off the relationship mantle to American jazz and free jazz. Pakistani Pomade is composed of short- to medium-length pieces, the longest of which, "Moonbeef," is ten minutes, the shortest a mere 43 seconds. What is most evident is how Von Schlippenbach's improvisational sensibility, though influenced by Cecil Taylor, had already moved off into its own type of formalism that required the breakdown of each idea into its smallest parts. Given that this is the way Parker has played from the beginning, it was a suitable expectation. On "Sun-Luck, Night-Rain," this is made evident by the charging in of large chords that smatter -- albeit somewhat melodically -- across the front line for a full minute before the rest of the band enters. Once they do, the chords become smaller and smaller until they are just single notes played against the clustering legato of Parker and Loven's wash of cymbals. On "A Little Yellow (And Two Seconds Monk)," the pianist lays out his chords and never ceases playing them until just before the end of the piece. They repeat not exactly in cycle, but in reference to Parker's solo, which, on the soprano, becomes a short, bleating revelation of harmonic juxtaposition and extreme dynamics -- it is only here that the single notes emanate, often against the drums -- from Von Schlippenbach's piano. The title track figures Monk and Herbie Nichols in its wonderfully rhythmic and convoluted opening statement from the pianist. Loven counts off into the void against the side of a tom tom, gradually picking up stream as Von Schlippenbach adds a series of chords and single-note keyboard runs to the body of the piece, before Parker enters with a warped version of the opening clarinet in "Rhapsody in Blue." The rest becomes a study in various ambiences rather than fury, depositing the bent-up notes Parker squeezes from the bell of his horn. There are four bonus tracks included from the session, all of them alternate and unfinished takes of "Pakistani Pomade" -- some humorous, others aborted, others that could have been interchangeable, but all of them very different from the master take. This truly inspiring music was made by a band who had yet to see how much taste, grace, and elegance they possessed. Pakistani is essential listening for vanguard jazz fans.

Alexander von Schlippenbach - 1970 - Payan

Alexander von Schlippenbach 

01. Fuge Für Tante Lilli 2:02
02. Yarrak 3:46
03. Pumpkin 2:32
04. Prelude To A Magic Afternoon Of Miss Yellow Sunshine 5:17
05. Niminy - Piminy 5:20
06. Payan 6:33
07. Lazy June 5:39
08. Aimless 3:20
09. Good Night, George 1:35
10. Kinds Of Weirdness 10:00

Recorded at Studio 70 in Munich on the 4th of February 1972

Alexander von Schlippenbach - solo piano

Recorded in a Munich recording studio six years after the Globe Unity Orchestra was founded the ten tracks, mostly fairly short and comprised of free-jazz icon Schlippenbach’s own compositions, solo piano album Payan begins with a strong sense of the baroque on ‘Fuge Für Tante Lilli’.

‘Yarrak’, following, has a thrillingly aggressive bite to it with rampant bass rhythms and cascading increasingly fracturing right hand flourishes a rush. ‘Pumpkin’ starts the process towards abstraction, at once antique and modern, the nihilism in the free-jazz style so striking. ‘Prelude to a Magic Afternoon of Miss Yellow Sunshine’ continues that process, and if you listen to a lot of Matthew Shipp records these days then this track might well connect with how you identify with Shipp’s sensibility all these years on.

‘Niminy – Piminy’ has a stillness that is quite beautiful, and it’s more about single note melodic development with the chromaticism Schlippenbach thrives on less a feature. Yet the title track ‘Pavan’ has a lot of energy to it, interweaving ideas coming together in the middle of the piano, a surging of pounding momentum that is exhilarating.

On ‘Lazy June’, and there are a few moments apart from this tune, the spirit of Bud Powell descends, it’s easy to feel that this is bare knuckle creativity at work pure and simple. ‘Aimless’, ‘Good Night, George’, and finally ‘Kinds of Weirdness’ are respectively explorative, punishingly violent, and ultimately experimental, Schlippenbach using the innards of the piano latterly for new ever more elaborate sonic discoveries.

It’s extraordinary to think that this album was recorded just three months after Jarrett’s Facing You. Dare yourself to listen to the two albums back to back for further enlightenment.

Alexander von Schlippenbach - 1969 - The Living Music

Alexander von Schlippenbach 
The Living Music

01. The Living Music (14:52)
02. Into The Staggerin (4:13)
03. Wave (3:33)
04. Tower (11:29)
05. Lollopalooza (6:49)
06. Past Time (4:58)

Recorded 24. 4. 1969 Rhenus Studio, Köln/Godorf.
First edition of this LP on Alexander von Schlippenbach's label QUASAR (blue label).

Manfred Schoof: cornet, flügelhorn
Paul Rutherford: trombone
Michel Pilz: bass clarinet, baritone saxophone
Peter Brötzmann: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone
J.B. Niebergall: bass, bass trombone
Alexander von Schlippenbach: piano, percussion
Han Bennink: drums, percussion

Alexander von Schlippenbach, along with Peter Brötzmann and Manfred Schoof, was one of the founders of the German free jazz collective FMP Records. Like all good collectives, FMP knew how to conserve resources: the entirety of The Living Music, as well as half of Brötzmann's legendary 1969 album Nipples, was recorded by the same musicians in one day. Unlike Brötzmann's corrosive, chaotic Nipples, the six pieces on The Living Music explore the concepts of open spaces and collective improvisation at least as much as they do everyone-solos-at-once clatter. As a result, Manfred Schoof's "Wave" builds up an astounding head of steam thanks to the force of a seven-piece band all headed in the same musical direction, and there are parts of the title track that are downright contemplative, particularly a brief, fractured solo from von Schlippenbach that's more Bill Evans than Cecil Taylor. Brötzmann, of course, is the star of the album, and his spotlight comes on the second half of "Into the Staggerin," where the rest of the band lays out and Brötzmann plays a tenor solo that recalls Albert Ayler's best work in the way it combines honk-blat-phwee aggressiveness and a genuinely lyrical compositional sense. Nipples may be the more famous of these two albums, but The Living Music may well be the better.

When this session was done, everyone needed a shower. There's no doubt about that. The Living Music lives and breathes at such a high level of intensity (and coherence) that it must have brought these seven European free improvisers to sheer exhaustion that long, productive afternoon almost exactly 24 years ago in Köln. But there's a strong sense about this record—now in its third release—that things fit where they belong.

Belonging is a relative concept, of course, and when free spirits fly together, they nudge and jostle enough to make order an impossibility. A few hints appear here and there, compositional aspects of these pieces that allude to formal structure. Manfred Schoof's pieces "Wave" and "Past Time" are remarkable in this regard. The leader's "Into the Staggerin" dwells briefly on a warm, full- bodied group theme before it swings off into the abyss. Drummer Han Bennink, omnipresent on the record, gets a rare opportunity to ride the beat, implying broken triplets on the cymbals while he engages in a little Max Roach action on the snare.

But not for long, because Peter Brötzmann gets his noodle in the horn and starts blowing so hard you think his brain is going to explode. (Yes, typical behavior at the time. Apparently his skull was very thick.) Little punchy rifflets, overblown and sharp, along with some unknown human voice howling strangely in the background. After two and a half minutes, the band stops playing completely while Brotzmann plateaus. Not content with one simple orgasm, he pauses only a moment before shooting off again. Riffing in pulse-like fashion, he hits the sky and falls back to earth. Seconds after the piece is over, we're all back on the horse again and the full unit comes back into play.

Schlippenbach seems content to play more of a catalytic, egalitarian role in the group, rather than riding out front on his instrument, though he's definitely not shy. He gets credit for half of these compositions, two of which (the title track and "Tower") are gargantuan in scale. While formal organization helps ground the group now and then, these players clearly feel most comfortable in the range where rules rarely apply, where the little children can come out and play. That means the longer pieces tend to work the best. "Tower" in particular has a sprawling sense of scale.

There's a strong vibe here of the European free big band tradition. Seven players, when they're as forward as this group, pretty much comprise a big band anyway. It makes little sense to single out individuals, except of course for Bennink (whose constant energy pulls everyone forward) and Brötzmann (whose voice is so singularly emphatic that it's impossible to ignore). The rest form a group, a like-minded collective that agrees to disagree.

Other than relatively minor dips in sound quality—it sounds like it was mastered off of vinyl—there's very little wrong with The Living Music. Given the spontaneity and spark of the assembled septet, that's a very small price to pay.

Alexander von Schlippenbach - 1967 - Globe Unity

Alexander von Schlippenbach 
Globe Unity

01. Globe Unity 20:12
02. Sun 20:34

Alto Saxophone – Peter Brötzmann
Baritone Saxophone – Kris Wanders
Baritone Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Willem Breuker
Bass [Left Channel] – Peter Kowald
Bass [Right Channel] – Buschi Niebergall
Bass Clarinet, Flute – Gunter Hampel
Piano, Bells, Tom Tom, Gong, Composed By – Alexander von Schlippenbach
Cornet, Flugelhorn – Manfred Schoof
Drums [Left Channel] – Jackie Liebezeit
Drums [Right Channel] – Mani Neumeier
Tenor Saxophone – Gerd Dudeck
Trumpet – Claude Deron
Tuba – Willi Lietzmann

Recorded December 6/7, 1966 at Ariola Studio Cologne.

One of Europe's premier free jazz bandleaders, pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach's music mixes free and contemporary classical elements, with his slashing solos often the link between the two in his compositions. Schlippenbach formed the Globe Unity Orchestra in 1966 to perform the piece "Globe Unity," which had been commissioned by the Berliner Jazztage. He remained involved with the orchestra into the '80s, with the exception of one period from 1971 to 1972. Schlippenbach began taking lessons at eight, and studied at the Staatliche Hochschule for Musik in Cologne with composers Bernd Alois Zimmermann and Rudolf Petzold. He played with Gunther Hampel in 1963, and was in Manfred Schoof's quintet from 1964 to 1967. Schlippenbach began heading various bands after 1967, among them a 1970 trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lovens (both were also in his quartet along with bassist Peter Kowald), and a duo with drummer/vocalist Sven-Ake Johansson which they co-formed in 1976. Schlippenbach has also given many solos performances. In the late '80s, he formed the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, which has featured a number of esteemed European avant-garde jazz musicians including Evan Parker, Paul Lovens, and, as the orchestra's second pianist, Misha Mengelberg, then Aki Takase. Alexander von Schlippenbach has most frequently recorded for FMP, although Japo, Saba, and Po Torch have also released some of his work. In 2000, the Atavistic label was added to this list with their reissue of the Schlippenbach Quartet's 1975 album Hunting the Snake.

Upon first listen I knew this was something special but after another listen, about a month later, I've added this to my personal upper echelon of free jazz albums, since this may be one of the greatest records in the genre ever crafted. Alexander von Schlippenbach may be the most talented person in the world of free jazz, and his abilities are outrageously overshadowed by others like Coltrane and Coleman, great though they may be. For free jazz to be successful, I find that there must be a level of both control and chaos, recognizable technical skill as well as pure unfiltered emoting, and Von Schlippenbach's playing has all of these attributes.

Of course, Von Schlippenbach isn't the only musician here, and the others have to come at least kind of close to him for the music to meld together as a whole. Luckily, the lineup here is extraordinary, with Manfred Schoof, the legendary Peter Brötzmann, and Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit (RIP) among the names listed. The collective chaos on side A is masterfully performed, excellently cacophonous, and is more than fulfilling enough to sustain for the entire run time (dig those tubular bells). Side B is quieter but still an expertly crafted exercise in commanding order in chaos, with a hilariously wide variety of instruments being played (duck call, maracas, siren, and is that a flex steel I hear?), mostly during the opening but to a lesser extent they are present throughout.

Less controlled than either The Living Music or The Morlocks, more instrumentally dense than Stranger Than Love, Smoke, or Pakistani Pomade, this may well just be Von Schlippenbach's best album, which puts it high in the running for the best free jazz album. For fans of Ascension and also Mass Hysterism in Another Situation.