Schlippenbach / Narvesen Duo: Liminal Field

John Sharpe By

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Schlippenbach / Narvesen Duo: Liminal Field
Liminal Field is the alluring second album from the intergenerational duo of German pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and Norwegian drummer Dag Magnus Narvesen, following on from the limited edition LP Interweaving (Not Two, 2018). A veteran of the European free movement, Schlippenbach is revered for leading the Globe Unity Orchestra, his long standing trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lovens, and his interpretations of the Thelonious Monk canon.

By comparison, Narvesen may be much less known, but among his accomplishments are the excellent Cornua Copiae (Clean Feed, 2016) by his DaMaNa Octet, and his contribution to pianist Aki Takase's Prima Thema, among others on the Berlin scene.

In a live recording from Stavanger in Narvesen's home country, the two principals come together on four off-the-cuff pieces which reference standards and covers as part of the unfettered flow. Schlippenbach conjures shades of Cecil Taylor as well as twelve tone serialism and his touchstone Monk, while Narvesen assembles a crisp, precise procession of timbrally varied figures into a lurching impetus. Rather than explicitly relate, they often juxtapose different ideas, in what Narvesen's liner notes describe as a collage.

Even so, the connections remain readily apparent in terms of energy, dynamics and the overall grain of the performance. That is obvious in the way they execute the tandem transition in "Relay Extempore," from the initial breathless dash of tumbling clatter and piano motifs which continually veer between atonal and melodic, to a more open second part of reflective piano variations with gentle malleted underpinning.

Each cut weaves a rich tapestry of influence, none more so than "Brass Tacks"; it begins with thunderous drum attacks which reverberate inside the piano, alternated with more detailed quieter textures. When Schlippenbach joins, it evolves into a conversational dialogue, the pianist recalling stride and ragtime tropes before sidling past, barely nodding, at "All The Things You Are." A spare tinkling interlude evoking gamelan sonorities gives birth to a disjointed, almost hesitant nod to Eric Dolphy's "Something Sweet, Something Tender" before continuing in first playful then roiling repartee.

Schlippenbach and Narvesen prove a productive amalgam which enchants as much as it challenges, and makes light of the 45-year age gap.

Track Listing

Relay Extempore; Reveries In Monochrome; Morphing Monk; Brass Tacks.


Alexander von Schlippenbach: piano; Dag Magnus Narvesen: drums.

Album information

Title: Liminal Field | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Not Two Records

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