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John Tchicai-Irene Schweizer Group: Willi The Pig

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August 1975 heralded the first Willisau Jazz Festival in Switzerland. The performance by the quartet featuring Danish saxophonist John Tchicai and Swiss pianist Irene Schweizer made its way into a pair of microphones, and shortly thereafter onto a limited edition LP—which of course went right out of print. Free jazz afficionados interested in the active European improv scene of the '70s will be grateful to know that they can now get their hands on this document without hunting endlessly through used bins.

Hot-pink Willi The Pig strides confidently down the middle of the road on the cover drawing, but the music on this disc does anything but the same. The 47 minutes of free improvisation on Willi The Pig range from quiet contemplative moments to explosive outbursts of energy. The particularly satisfying feature of this performance is the way Tchicai and Schweizer coordinate their playing to bring the improvisation to a higher level. Tchicai's saxophone playing, frequently reminiscent of Ayler, emphasizes thematic content with powerful but bridled emotional intensity. Schweizer tends to play impulsively but busily on the piano, throwing out scampering runs and insistent clusters that help shape Tchicai's energy and flow. While bassist Buschi Niebergall and drummer Makaya Ntshoko propel the music forward with pulsing rhythms, it is Schweizer and Tchicai who really dominate the performance.

Unfortunately this reissue derives from three virgin LPs, since the original master tapes were lost. As a result, the frequency range is compressed, the piano retreats to the background, and the drum set tends to reduce itself to a lot of cymbals. In addition, the full-length performance is cut in half by an LP break during a period of particularly high intensity. So it's not the most ideal sonic setting—but if you keep your ears open, you can follow the evolution of an unusually fresh-sounding spontaneous improvisation.


Track Listing: Part 1; Part 2.

Personnel: John Tchicai: alto and soprano saxes, piano; Irene Schweizer: piano; Buschi Niebergall: bass; Makaya Ntshoko: drums.

Title: Willi The Pig | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Atavistic Worldwide


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