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Irene Schweizer / Hamid Drake: Celebration

Troy Dostert By

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Irene Schweizer / Hamid Drake: Celebration
If John Coltrane was the dominant figure behind the rise of Impulse Records in the 1960s, and Wayne Shorter played a similar role for Blue Note in the same decade, one could argue that pianist Irene Schweizer has placed her stamp upon Intakt Records. Certainly the Swiss avant-garde label has embraced that relationship, as aside from a handful of releases on FMP, Intakt has been Schweizer's exclusive home since the 1980s, with dozens of releases over the years documenting her technically demanding yet engaging style that is rooted equally in European free music and the jazz/blues tradition. She has had a particular fondness for the format on display in Celebration: a piano-drums duo, this time with Hamid Drake, allowing Schweizer to tap into a myriad of piano modes that suit the indefatigable pianist especially nicely.

Schweizer has worked with a number of the legends of free jazz drumming, a list that includes Pierre Favre, Günter 'Baby' Sommer, Louis Moholo-Moholo, Andrew Cyrille, and Han Bennink. And she's also worked with Drake before—she first encountered the drummer with Douglas Ewart at a FMP festival in Chicago in 1995, and then later in the 1990s she worked with Drake and Fred Anderson in performances that were finally documented on Willisau and Taktlos (Intakt, 2007). But this is her first duo recording with Drake, and it's a live outing from 2019, at the Nickelsdorf Konfrontationen festival in Austria. It's a more- than-worthy addition to Schweizer's formidable series of matchups with top-shelf drummers.

Possessing fierce power and an exclamatory temperament, Schweizer can bring the goods as well as anyone when it comes to attacking the piano—it's not for nothing that she was often compared to Cecil Taylor in her early years. One can hear that legacy here on "Hot Sunflowers," a feisty cut that unleashes Schweizer's aggressive aspect. But Drake's fluid, groove-heavy technique brings out the pianist's other dimensions much more frequently: from the gritty funk found on "The Good Life" to the insistent hard-bop feel of "Blues for Crelier," Schweizer shows that it is more than possible to combine freedom with engaging melody and rhythmic fervor.

There are oblique moments as well. Schweizer's pensive reflections on "Twister" start the track in a deceptively tranquil vein, before she gradually broadens the scope of the track in a much more demonstrative direction. And she delves into the interior of the piano on the suitably titled "Stringfever," the album's most abstract track, with Drake's rhythmic proclivities muted so as to complement Schweizer's abstruse explorations. But for this concert, it's the groove that matters, and the closing cuts, "Celebration" and the Johnny Dyani tribute "Song for Johnny," deliver more of what the grateful Nickelsdorf crowd clearly came for: music that stirs the soul, with all the energy needed to keep heads bobbing and feet tapping. It's a delight to hear these two on stage together, and it's evident that they're enjoying themselves immensely as well.

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.

Personnel

Irene Schweizer: piano; Hamid Drake: drums.

Album information

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

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