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Schlippenbach Trio: Features

John Sharpe By

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In a change of pace from their previous outing—the superb long form concert recording Bauhaus Dessau (Intakt, 2010) -the longstanding Schlippenbach Trio has created a program of 15 concise improvisations, captured during a two day stopover in Zurich during their customary winter tour schedule. Such practice stands as far from unprecedented in the unit's 43 year history. Inevitably they have mellowed since their early days (after all both pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and saxophonist Evan Parker are over 70 now) and the palette they choose to work from appears more limited compared to say Pakistani Pomade (FMP, 1973). But that's because they have developed a collective language which allows them to say what they need and not a jot more.

Brevity precludes neither intensity or diversity. The energy hasn't gone, but it has been largely replaced by penetrating conversation. On some cuts ("Feature 3," "Feature 4") they touch on no less a number of moods than might be encountered in a more protracted performance. Of course they may not be sustained to the same degree, but there is the same level of alchemy on display via individual virtuosity placed entirely at the service of near telepathic democratic interchange. Conversely sometimes they do sustain a feeling as on the dreamy "Feature 7." Even though Schlippenbach often leads, the ensuing pieces advance as a group discussion through a variety of approaches.

At over eight minutes "Feature 10" is the longest track, and also the one which has the most distinctive structure. A squally beginning gives way to a rambunctious tenor saxophone/ drum duet which proceeds in synchronous eruptions, as Paul Lovens pushes Parker with a rumbling tattoo. Schlippenbach rejoins, then continues in percussive dialogue, with Lovens drumming now more sparse and tappy, before a fiery close in which Parker spits staccato gobbets. As a package the disc provides the opportunity to put the threesome's workings under the microscope and may particularly appeal to those who prefer to digest their improv in short elegant bursts rather than dig in for an extended session.

Track Listing: Feature 1; Feature 2; Feature 3; Feature 4; Feature 5; Feature 6; Feature 7; Feature 8; Feature 9; Feature 10; Feature 11; Feature 12; Feature 13; Feature 14; Feature 15.

Personnel: Alexander von Schlippenbach: piano; Evan Parker: tenor saxophone; Paul Lovens: drums.

Title: Features | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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