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Alexander von Schlippenbach / Aki Takase: Live At Cafe Amores

John Sharpe By

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The Lithuanian NoBusiness imprint has unearthed another gem from the vaults of the Japanese Chap Chap label. Live At Cafe Amores represents the third duet recording from the husband-and-wife pairing of pianists Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase, but the first where they share the same instrument. Such a situation was perhaps only possible for an entire concert because of their already strong relationship. But the supposed limitation of four hands at one keyboard doesn't constrain, so much as promote, ingenuity.

The piano isn't the only thing they share. Their repertoire for this 1995 date—which echoes that on the long-out-of-print Piano Duets: Live In Berlin 93/94 (FMP, 1995)—spans the history of jazz, demonstrating a particular fondness for the more offbeat nooks and crannies. That shouldn't be a surprise as, in spite of serious avant-garde credentials, their wide-ranging affections have subsequently been aired through releases as diverse as Schlippenbach's seminal deep dive into Thelonious Monk's collected works on Monk's Casino (Intakt, 2005), Takase's reworking of early jazz classics on New Blues (Enja, 2012), and their joint take on Eric Dolphy's oeuvre on So Long Eric (Intakt, 2014).

But even at this stage in their journey, they gleefully trample boundaries and genre distinctions. A prime example arrives in their account of Frank Zappa's "You Are What You Is" which they transform into a joyous barrelhouse romp. They also take an equally irreverent approach towards the tradition, their version of Charles Mingus' "Duke's Choice" opening with a brooding watchfulness conjured from ominous keystrokes and under-the-bonnet manipulations before the tune's rhapsodic contours are finally revealed. That segues into the locomotive fervor of "Boogie Stop Shuffle" given an especially lively interpretation.

The album includes two solo numbers which started each set of the live performance. "Jackhammer," which opens the disc, finds Schlippenbach in expansive mood, invoking the oblique lyricism of early Keith Jarrett as often as the energy and muscularity of Cecil Taylor, while Takase's shorter "Lulu's Back In Town" passes in a whirl of ragtime bounce.

Just because there are two people tickling the ivories, density doesn't result as a default. Monk's "Misterioso" offers a case in point—a jaunty rendition, which becomes increasingly playful but is still notable for its restraint—although they give two further numbers from Monk's canon more intricate readings. To confirm their embrace of the whole jazz spectrum, the disc ends on an uncompromisingly modern note, with the clanking pandemonium of "The Morlocks" accentuated by inserting a metal pizza tray into the piano's innards for the duration.

Such is the pair's empathy and capacity for quicksilver recalibration, that you could be forgiven for thinking just one player was involved, albeit one who was supernaturally talented.

Track Listing: Jackhammer; Na Na Na Ist Das Der Weg; You Are What You Is; Mingus-mix: Dukes Choice - Boogie Stop Shuffle; Misterioso - Evidence; Skippy; Lulu's Back In Town; The Morlocks.

Personnel: Alexander von Schlippenbach: piano; Aki Takase: piano.

Title: Live At Cafe Amores | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: NoBusiness Records

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