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Schlippenbach Trio: Winterreise

Nic Jones By

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These musicians have been working together on and off for a long time, and perhaps the only thing they have in common with the "classic" lineup of the John Coltrane quartet is the fact that they work with such notable empathy that every disc they put out is in the most profound sense a document of a work in progress.

Taken from two concerts given in Cologne in German in 2004 and 2005, the two pieces that make up this disc range in mood and frame of reference, from pointillistic detail to the kind of energy music which a lot of musicians seem to regard as relatively easy to put over. The fact that these three gentlemen manage to deliver it with aplomb and in a way that holds the listener's attention suggests that it's not, however.

In a sense Evan Parker can be said to have fashioned different instrumental vocabularies for his soprano and tenor saxophones, but that determinist view is happily undermined here. At around the 32-minute mark of "Winterreise 1," he sets about the task of translating his customary soprano vocabulary to the tenor sax (which he exclusively sticks to on this set) in one of the piece's many contemplative passages.

It seems that on the basis of the recorded evidence here Alexander Von Schlippenbach is becoming a more expansive pianist the more time passes. In his reflective moments he oftens comes across as a lover of unworldly lyricism, exploring intervals whose limits are quite rightly set by his requirement to play for the group. Indeed this sublimation of the ego could just be the paradox at the heart of this music, especially when even in its most expansive, driven moments, the needs of the group are primary.

As a consequence of a whole lot more than his dedication to this music and the years of his working life he's devoted to it, Paul Lovens is now a master colourist. His drumming on "Winterreise," which incidentally features a first half in which preconceived notions of beauty are effectively usurped in favour of the radically new, is a manifestation of how different the demands of this music can be.

It could be argued that the shock of the free has long since lost its impact, but that does nothing to alter the fact that music like this is never going to take options easy enough for listeners to fall into a comfort zone. In its powerful espousal of a form of freedom that's a whole lot more than amorphous, it will always make demands, and for that alone it will always be worthy of resounding applause. Listeners would be doing themselves a favour if they figuratively strapped themselves in and prepared to roll.


Track Listing: Winterreise 1; Winterreise 2.

Personnel: Evan Parker: tenor saxophone; Alexander Von Schlippenbach: piano; Paul Lovens: drums, cymbals.

Title: Winterreise | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Psi


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