Alexander von Schlippenbach has always worked well with drummers and his previous discography bears his preference for such percussive partners out. From the work unveiled on this disc to later meetings with the likes of Sunny Murray and Tony Oxley ( Smoke
and Diggers Harvest
respectively, both on FMP) his own percussive style with hooks in the innovations of Cecil Taylor has flourished in stripped down settings of piano and drums. Johansson is similarly suited to such environments. Whether in larger ensemble settings like the octet memorialized on Brötzmann’s Machine Gun
where his ballistic interactions with Fred Van Hove and fellow drummer Han Bennink kept things fired up to a furnace heat, or alone as on his recently reissued Schlingerland/Dynamische Schwingungen
(Unheard/Atavistic) he approaches his kit with a complete and candid openness to any and all possibilities.
Pieced together from personal tapes these dozen performances run a wide gamut especially considering their sparse instrumentation. Neither man is absolute leader or follower. Instead a fluid propulsory pact exists in their interplay allowing either one to upend the tables and light out in a new trajectory, partner in tow. On the opening track, which winds onward for nearly a third of an hour, a dense dance between drums and keys gives way to a playful Tango-tinged solo from Johansson’s accordion and an eventual rough edit into radical reworkings of Monk’s “Evidence” and “Round About Midnight.” The latter is almost unrecognizable, a frayed string of sideshow percussion and obliquely referenced melody. “Yaapo” returns the duo’s ship to more lyrical waters for a short spell as Johannson’s woodblocks accent a colorful series of cheerful runs from Schlippenbach before a sudden shift into more turbulent straights. The dynamic tension created between sections is a pure thing of tensile-charged beauty. Johansson rolls out the spare change and junk on “Potpourri a la bonne femme” creating a wonderfully unruly mélange of percussive flavors prior to his partner’s entry on prepared piano keys and innards. “Very Good Because Very Strong” composed in honor of South African saxophonist Dudu Pukwana is a flood of cascading block chords tested under the weight of Johansson’s continuous drum barrage. Other pieces like “Blues Is Something Slightly Knowing,” which focuses on accordion and vocalized lyrics in English are more curious than engaging, but still add further to the feeling that anything is fair game for restless imaginations of these two. Ending with a fractured vocal reading of the standard “Over the Rainbow” the pair keeps a wistful eye trained to the future.
Perhaps the best news of all is that both of these players are still actively performing and recording with their own groups: Schlippenbach with a handful of aggregations and Johansson with a working quintet (documented on Hatology). Through varied projects each man continues to actualize and expand on the promise first set down in these earlier meetings. To have them available for perusal is a boon we should all give thanks for.
FMP on the web: http://www.free-music-production.de