The very first release on the German free jazz label FMP, recently reissued by Atavistic as part of its Unheard Music Series, was trumpeter Manfred Schoof’s European Echoes. In June of 1969, Schoff convened some of the leading lights of the emerging European free music scene for this radio project, heard here in its entirety. What is striking is the density of the instrumentation (consisting of three trumpets, three saxophonists, three pianists, three bassists, two drummers and trombonist Paul Rutherford), the elasticity of the written/improvised passages, and the remarkable solo talents of these improvisers.
Part one of the long piece which constitutes this recording opens with the relentless tom and cymbal interplay of Han Bennink and Pierre Favre, who lay a foundation for bassists Arjen Gorter, Peter Kowald and Buschi Niebergall; guitarist Derek Bailey’s savage left-field notions comprise the first solo spot. Bailey’s cascades eventually become part of the fabric of the furious rhythmic drive which, after brief written ensemble parts, allows Evan Parker, on soprano, to provide glimpses of his future trademark style. Paul Rutherford’s individualistic sound emerges next, with judicious multiphonic useand, as one might predict, Peter Brötzmann’s solo spot sears forth like a fighter jet screaming across the horizon. Riding Brötzmann's zeal, Enrico Rava is the first of the trumpets to take a solo, with Bennink and the rhythm section propelling the proceedings forward. At the conclusion of “Part One,” the pianists (Schlippenbach, Van Hove and Schweizer) go it alone and engage in a curious and intense interplay.
At this point, it is worth mentioning that both sections of the piece are woven together seamlessly, and thus, after the pianos, Favre and Bennink are free to take their rollicking, crackling drumplay to gale force levels without interruption. The bassists have their turn next, bouncing around like lottery balls waiting for selection. Gerd Dudek adds a forthright solo before trumpeters Hugh Steinmetz and the leader add their parting remarks. The sound quality is certainly muddy at times, but perhaps one could view that as part of the thick stew that makes up this work. Some also might complain that at 30:51, the record is a tad brief, but I found that the short running time allowed for a deeper consumption of its unrelenting intensity. This is mandatory listening for folks interested in a large sound.
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