The '70s were a banner decade for free improvisation in Europe. Much of the free jazz of todayespecially recent material from the New York avant/free sceneowes huge debts to early European improvisers. Pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach made great leaps at both the compositional level and the performance level, integrating a high level of structure into a setting fully embodying musical democracy. Schlippenbach's playing per se spans the range from focused harmonic concentration to all-out glissando/clustering abandon. While the obvious comparisons to players like Cecil Taylor and Matthew Shipp may help to clarify Schlippenbach's structuralist musical vision, his approach can also be readily compared to Monk and classical composers as well.
In the company of masters like saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist Peter Kowald, and drummer Paul Lovens, Schlippenbach's music rises to a higher level. Parker constantly teeters on the brink of overblown textures and whistling overtones, building and releasing tension in coordination with the rest of the group. The unique combination of Kowald and Parker together creates a web of sound which frequently steps outside the bounds of conventional notation and enters into a range of timbre that approximates the human voice. Lovens's percussion also defies any sort of regular pattern, jumping from rhythm to rhythm with creative abandon.
Hunting the Snake, a never-before released record from a 1975 Radio Bremen session, is the only CD recording in print of the Schlippenbach quartet. For those listeners who have absorbed and appreciated the underdocumented genius of Schlippenbach in settings like his fantastic 1990 FMP trio recording Elf Bagatellen (with Parker and Lovens), this disc is a must-listen. For those curious about the free jazz innovations of the '70s, Hunting the Snake is a fine starting point. Regardless, it's great music, delivered from the heart with sensitivity and unbridled creative freedom.
Track Listing: Glen Feshie; Moonbeef; Hunting the Snake; Wenn Wir Kehlkopfspieler Uns Unterhalten.
Personnel: Alexander von Schlippenbach, piano; Evan Parker, tenor and soprano saxophones; Peter Kowald, bass; Paul Lovens, percussion.
I grew up listening to my father's jazz records and listening to the radio. My dad was a musician for many years as a vocalist, bassist and drummer. His two uncles played in the Symphony of Reggio Calabria back in Italy
I grew up listening to my father's jazz records and listening to the radio. My dad was a musician for many years as a vocalist, bassist and drummer. His two uncles played in the Symphony of Reggio Calabria back in Italy. So music and jazz specifically have been a part of me since I was born. I love and perform in all styles of music from around the world. Improvisation in jazz is what drew me in, and still does as well as other genres that feature improvisation. A group of great musicians expressing themselves as one is the hallmark of great jazz and in fact all great music.