Irene Schweizer / Hamid Drake: Celebration

Dan McClenaghan By

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Irene Schweizer / Hamid Drake: Celebration
Celebration is a walloping storm of free jazz, rolling in on a hard-hitting percussion mode. Pianist Irene Schweizer holds down the piano chair, Hamid Drake is behind the drum kit. The pair has played and recorded together often. The opener, "A Former Dialogue," introduces us to a drum thunder and a splattering of fat piano-crafted raindrops. Schweizer's piano approach sounds as if it is an attack full of elbows and knees, making madcap, Cecil Taylor-like pandemonium interspersed with moments of crisp delicacy, jaunty strolls and pretty reveries. A trip to YouTube shows Schweizer at-the-keyboard, sitting tall with a straight-backed posture and the serious deportment of a musician engaged in a classical recital. No flailing appendages flying around. The music, though, is approachably unrestrained.

Schweizer is particularly fond of the piano/drums duo configuration, having recorded with Pierre Favre, Louis Moholo-Moholo, Andrew Cyrille and her partner here, Hamid Drake. All of these drummers are "let's set up and see what happens" players, adept at improvisation and spontaneous interplay.

Celebration was recorded live at the 40th Festival For Improvised Music in Austria. Schweizer and Drake make the air crackle. "The Good Life" bounces with joy; "Twister" begins as an inward journey that breaks out into moments sparking gregariousness, before it shifts into a full forward momentum, approaching the speed of light before it downshifts into a cruising celebratory mood.

Celebration arrives in time to wish Schweizer a happy eightieth birthday. To those unfamiliar with her artistry, it can serve as a gateway to a prolific and terrific six decades of recorded freedom and spontaneity.

Track Listing

A Former Dialogue; Hot Sunflowers; The Good Life; Twister; Stringfever; Blues For Crelier; Nickelsdorf Glow; Celebration; Song For Johnny—In Memory of Johnny Dyani.


Irene Schweizer: piano; Hamid Drake: drums.

Album information

Title: Celebration | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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