Reviews that mention Irène Schweizer

November 21, 2020

European Echoes: Jazz Experimentation in Germany 1950-1975

By Harald Kisedu
Wolke Verlage

By Ken Waxman

Like many other countries in the Western world, Germany developed its variant of improvised music after records by Free Jazz pioneers such as Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and Albrt Ayler became generally available. But the response by committed sound explorers to these sounds created by mostly African-American musicians was more diffuse than in other places. Not only were progressive German musicians confronted with a novel mutation of the Jazz they had followed for many years, but they also had to deal with it alongside specific extra-musical matters. MORE

February 6, 2019

Various Artists: Cosmic Forest

The Spiritual Sounds of MPS
MPS 4029759122562

Milford Graves


Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsDCD052

Roscoe Mitchell


Delmark DE 4408

Bobby Naughton/Leo Smith/Perry Robinson

The Haunt

NoBusiness Records NBCD 105

Instant Composers Pool


Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsDCD056

Something in the Air: CD Reissues help define the massive musical changes of the 1960s and 1970s

By Ken Waxman

As the advances musical and otherwise that transformed the 1960s and 1970s recede into history new considerations of what happened during those turbulent times continually appear. Reissues of advanced music recorded during that time, some needlessly obscure, some better known, help fill in the details of exactly what happened. MORE

January 16, 2018

Irène Schweizer/Joey Baron

Intakt CD 293

Joining an illustrious cast of percussion partners who have played in duo with Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer is American Joey Baron. No place for the faint of heart, Schweizer’s playing partners have ranged from Günter Baby Sommer to Andrew Cyrille. But considering that Baron’s background includes stints with everyone from Carmen McRae to John Zorn, he gives as much as he gets.

Curiously enough for two figures closely identified with so-called avant-garde Jazz, there are times when their connection reaches such a peak of unfettered swing that you could be listening to an Earl Hines-Jo Jones date or even Peter Johnson with a Blues drummer. Those sort of playful, allusions appears as early as “Free for All”, the first track, which is also contemporary enough to have that honky-tonk train move along on an imaginary track that is stretched and stretched almost to infinity without breaking. “Blues for Crelier” is the other obvious showcase, with enough flashy stops and beaks to give both players space. Elsewhere Baron further demonstrates his understated percussion mastery, with interjections that sound as if he’s bending the cymbals while dislocating the time and beat, often in tandem with the pianist. For her part Schweizer creates a harpsichord-like plinking on “String Fever”, and then reverses herself immediately afterwards and figuratively dives into the piano innards for low-pitched resonations. MORE

October 11, 2017

Joëlle Léandre

A Woman’s Work…
NotTwo MW950-2

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp

The Art of Perelman-Shipp

Leo Records CD LR 794-799 and 786

Something in the Air: Music Appreciation as a Single Serving or Throughout Several Meals

By Ken Waxman

Marketing considerations aside, how best can a musician mark an important milestone or significant creativity? With recorded music the result is usually multiple discs. In honor of French bassist Joëlle Léandre’s recent 60th birthday for instance, there’s A Woman’s Work … (NotTwo MW950-2), an eight-disc boxed set. Almost six hours of music, the 42 tracks were recorded between 2006 and 2016 with one solo disc and the others intense interaction with such associates as trumpeter Jean-Luc Cappozzo, tenor saxophonist Evan Parker, violist Mat Maneri, guitarist Fred Frith, percussionist Zlatko Kaučič, pianists Agustí Fernández or Irène Schweizer and vocalists Lauren Newton or Maggie Nicols. With improvisers from six different countries working alongside, the bassist’s charm, humor, vigor and adaptability are highlighted. MORE

February 18, 2017

NPR’s 11th Annual

Jazz Critics Poll Ballot

•Your name and primary affiliation(s)

Ken Waxman: The New York City Jazz Record; Whole Note

•Your choices for this year’s 10 best New Releases listed in descending order

1. Alexander Hawkins Trio Alexander Hawkins Music AH 1001

2. Anna Webber’s Simple Trio Binary Skirl Records 033

3. Michael Formanek Ensemble Kolossus The Distance ECM 2484

4. Artifacts Reed-Reid-Mitchell 482 Music 482-1093

5. Umlaut Big Band Euro Swing Vol. 2 Umlaut UMFR-CD18 MORE

January 7, 2017

Gender and Identity in Jazz: Darmstäder Studies in Jazz Research

Edited by Wolfram Knauer
Jazz Institute Darmstadt

By Ken Waxman

Only during the past 20 years has serious scholarship turned to examining the effect of gender inequality and sexual preference on jazz. With different identities the subject of 2015’s Darmstäde Jazzforum, the 17 essays collected here offer a thoughtful and informed overview of the subjects. Written mostly in English, with summaries provided for German entries, the most valuable pieces are based on primary research. An important distinction is also made between two concepts. While the idea of woman playing jazz has accepted –although downgraded as not being as profound as so-called real jazz from males – the idea that homosexuals and lesbians were involved in the music seems to have been a non-starter for many practitioners. MORE

February 11, 2016

Irène Schweizer/Han Bennink

Welcome Back
Intakt 254

Ran Blake

Ghost Tones

A side 0001 (700261418698)


Free Form Improvisatio Ensemble 2013

Improvising Beings ib 40

Joe McPhee


Clean Feed 345 CD

Lvio Minafra/Louis Moholo-Moholo

Born Free

Nicipic Records Inc 2013

Something In The Air: Advanced Jazz’s Fountain of Youth

By Ken Waxman

One common shibboleth of mid-20th century creative music was that “jazz was a young man’s art”. Putting aside the sexism implicit in the statement, the idea denied jazz musicians the sort of late career acclaim that notated music masters like Pablo Casals and Vladimir Horowitz enjoyed. Times have more than changed. Expanded from the Baby Boomer cliché that “50 is the new 30”, and its upwards affiliations, career longevity is now taken for granted in all serious music. These CDs recorded by improvised musicians in their seventies attest to that. MORE

March 8, 2014

Irène Schweizer/Pierre Favre

Live in Zürich
Intakt CD 228

Angelica Sanchez/Wadada Leo Smith

Twine Forest

Clean Feed CF 287 CD

Chris Abrahams/Magda Mayas


Relative Pitch RPR 1011

With the piano a mini-orchestra, instrumentalists who partner pianists in a duo must bring prodigious chops as well as lightening quick reflexes to the program. Luckily the talents of each set of improvisers here isn’t in question. But the capacity of the other instrument is crucial in measuring the session’s achievement. MORE

November 6, 2012

Festival Report

Jazz Brugge 2012
By Ken Waxman

When a festival like Jazz Brugge 2012 takes place in a Belgium town, designated by UNESCO World Heritage for its picturesque canals and loving preserved medieval buildings, a certain amount of time and space dislocation can be expected. Considering that concerts (October 4 to 7) took place in the attic performance space of the 12th century Sint-Janshospitaal museum or in a massive or a smaller hall of the four-seating tier Concertgebouw, purpose built in 2002, this time-shifting continued. Additionally, three of the most insightful performances melded celebration of art from earlier century with perceptive improvisations. MORE

March 6, 2012

The New York City Jazz Record Interview

With Pierre Favre
By Ken Waxman

During a career of more than 55 years, Swiss drummer Pierre Favre, who turns 75 in June, has been a constantly innovating musician. One of the first Swiss players to embrace free music in the late ’60s, since that time he’s explored a variety of musical concepts from giving solo percussion concerts to composing notated works and collaborating with folkloric-influenced improvisers. Making a rare New York apperance this month, Favre plays three times in diffemt configurations during the two weeks Intakt Records curates The Stone. MORE

March 6, 2012

Jürg Wickihalder European Quartet

Intakt CD 194

By Ken Waxman

Bonding over a mutual appreciation for the music of Thelonious Monk and Steve Lacy Irène Schweizer, Switzerland’s most accomplished improvising pianist, and Jürg Wickihalder, a young Swiss soprano saxophonist, have played together regularly over the past decade. This fine quartet session is the result of their mutual respect and accommodation.

Seconded by steadfast Swiss bassist Fabian Gisler and subtle and inventive German drummer Michael Griener, both of whom are closer to Wickihalder’s than Schweizer’s age, the two cycle though originals by the saxophonist. The front line players’ musical rapport conclusively dissolves their approximately 40 year age difference. Schweizer’s experience means she knew Lacy as a peer, while Wickihalder studied with him. That familiarity on Wickihalder’s part may be the disc’s shortcoming however. There are points at which the sound of his soprano is too close to Lacy’s and not individual enough. Still, the pianist’s presence makes the saxophonist’s playing more adventurous than it was on his first two CDs. MORE

March 6, 2012

Irène Schweizer

To Whom It May Concern
Intakt CD 200

By Ken Waxman

One of those rare celebratory concerts which lives up to expectations, Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer’s solo recital celebrating her 70th birthday convincingly exposes every facet of her talents. The 10 tunes recorded in Zürich’s Tonehalle demonstrate the always iconoclastic pianist’s command of her chosen idiom. Certified jazz classics by Thelonious Monk, Carla Bley and Jimmy Giuffre share space with a theme by Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim). And these brush up against original compositions by Schweizer that pinpoint her unique melding of modern and avant-jazz inflections plus boogie woogie and swing. MORE

April 8, 2011

FMP In Rückblick

In Retrospect 1969-2010
FMP CD 137 - FMP CD 148

Something in the Air: FMP`s 40th Anniversary

By Ken Waxman

Throughout jazz history, independent labels have typified sounds of the time. In the Swing era it was Commodore; Modern jazz was prominent on Blue Note and Prestige; and with Improvised Music, FMP is one of the longest lasting imprints. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the Berlin-based label has given listeners a spectacular birthday present with FMP In Rückblick – In Retrospect 1969-2010,12 [!] CDs representing FMP’s past and future – the oldest from 1975, the newest, by American cellist Tristan Honsinger and German guitarist Olaf Rupp from 2010, half previously unissued – plus an LP-sized, 218-page book, lavishly illustrated with contemporary photographs, posters, album covers and a discography. MORE

February 17, 2011

Tommy Meier Root Down

The Master and the Rain
Intakt CD 181

Appropriation of voice has become a serious concern in the arts over the past few decades, with various groups charging that others – usually First World Caucasians – are stealing their history for their own purposes. Although this situation is more often expressed when it comes to visual arts and literature, so-called World music performers can be equally suspect. This introduces a problem that could affect saxophonist Tommy Meier’s Root Down ensemble. Made up in the main by Swiss players, the 14-piece band’s repertoire is either directly taken from, or is adaptations of, African material. MORE

March 3, 2010

Irène Schweizer/Barry Guy, London Jazz Composers Orchestra

Radio Rondo
Intakt CD 158

Sometimes the best intention – plus a collection of exceptionally talented musicians – still doesn’t guarantee a perfectly balanced performance. Both piano soloist Irène Schweizer and the London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) discovered this during this live concert at the 2008 Schaffhauser Jazz Festival in Switzerland. While the 30-minute “Radio Rondo” was composed by LJCO leader Barry Guy as a special feature for the Swiss pianist, the subsequent performance was patchy, with unexpected sonic peaks and valleys often held together by sheer will. MORE

November 20, 2008

Schaffhauser Jazzfestival

Schaffhausen, Switzerland
May 21 to 24 2008

Forty-seven years after she left her home town of Shauffchausen, Switzerland for nearby Zürich, pianist Irène Schweizer was back headlining the Schaffhauser Jazz Festival’s most ambitious program ever: performing “Radio Rondo”, a composition by bassist Barry Guy, which featured her and the London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO).

In its 19th year of showcasing Swiss jazz and improvised music, Schaffhauser expanded its horizons in 2008 with the Schweizer/LJCO summit, which took place in front of a sell-out crowd in the city’s modernist Stadtheater. The evening, which included a solo piano showcase for Schweizer, also emphasized two of the fest’s overall themes: the majority of the most interesting sets included piano; and non-Swiss musicians and motifs adding needed variety to the performances MORE

July 2, 2008

Sonic Geography: Mulhouse, France

For MusicWorks Issue #101

During late August when some streets in Mulhouse, France take on a decidedly other-directed character associated with the Jazz à Mulhouse (JAM) festival, it’s likely neither visitors nor locals realize the symbolic roots of the celebration, an integral part of the city since 1983.

Known as France’s Manchester, industry in this city of about 112,000 people in the Haut-Rhin region has been involved with the textile industry since 1746, when four locals founded the city’s first textile printing works. Annexed by France in 1798, Mulhouse was formerly a free republic associated with the Swiss Confederation. In the late 19th and early 20th century Mulhouse’s factories remained world leaders in the manufacture and marketing of printed cloth for both home and apparel, while students from around the world studied at the École nationale superieure des industries textiles. MORE

January 9, 2008

Jazz à Mulhouse gives a loving French kiss to Improvised music

By Ken Waxman
For CODA Issue 337

Impressive saxophone and reed displays were the focus of the 24th Edition of Jazz à Mulhouse in France in late August. Overall however, most of the 19 performances maintained a constant high quality. This may have something to do with the fact that unlike larger, flashier and more commercial festivals, Jazz à Mulhouse (JAM) is an almost folksy showcase for improvisation.

Located less than 20 minutes away by train from Basel, Switzerland, Mulhouse is a mid-sized city of 150,000 in eastern France long known as an industrial textile centre. Low-key, JAM is rather like the Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville (FIMAV), with better restaurants. MORE

November 1, 2006

Irène Schweizer

First Choice: Piano Solo KKL Luzern
Intakt CD 108

Not altering her style one whit despite the location, Irène Schweizer, Switzerland’s pre-eminent improvising pianist, confirms her skills as a player, composer and interpreter on this CD, recorded live at Lucerne’s classical music concert hall whose initials are KKL.

Encompassing child-like fantasias, fortissimo slides and breaks plus internal string manipulated with mallets and toys, Schweizer’s seven pieces range across South African highlife dances, atonal European experimental timbres, and American blues and boogie woogie. During one number she effectively mocks the venue’s high culture pretensions by scratching the high gloss varnish of the building’s walls while reverberating bottleneck guitar-like slides with hand-stopped piano strings. MORE

September 13, 2006

Joëlle Léandre

At The Le Mans Jazz Festival
Leo CD LR 458/459

Versatile French bassist Joëlle Léandre can always be counted upon to be dependable in her contributions to any improvisation as well as flexible in her choice of musical partners.

Starting in the early 1980s, she has performed in Europe, Asia and North America, with improv masters, innovative Free players from different cultures and younger musicians who need more exposure. Recorded during one five-day period, this two-CD set showcases her playing in five different contexts with new and old collaborators and with predictably impressive results. MORE

August 22, 2005


Where’s Africa
Intakt CD 098

Take your pick: this is either a return to her swing-bop roots for Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer or the weirdest duo session she’s ever made.

That’s because Schweizer, who has had a commitment to the European avant garde since the late 1960s in the company of such heavy hitters as Danish saxist John Tchicai, French bassist Joëlle Léandre and British bassist Barry Guy, here plays an entire program of jazz and pop standards plus one of her own original.

Stranger still, her partner here is the many years younger, turban-wearing Zürich-based alto saxophonist Omri Ziegele, whose recorded forays with over-the-top, often electrified bands like Billiger Bauer and Noisy Minority, are nothing like the cerebral improvisation in which the pianist specializes. Yet she and the saxist have partnered since the late 1990s. WHERE’S AFRICA not only provides listeners a progress report on the duo, but honors the club – actually called Africana – in Zürich’s old town where in earlier years Schweizer would accompany musical visitors from the United States and South Africa. MORE

April 19, 2004


Counting On Angels

Intakt CD 084

Pity the poor bass player.

Over the past couple of decades improvisers have distanced themselves still further from the so-called jazz scene by playing in different configurations. One of the most common scenarios is jettisoning the bassist of the standard jazz trio and recording with just piano and drums -- the way masters of the Stride piano did in the 1920s.

No one is likely to confuse COUNTING ON ANGELS or ULRICHSBERG for a Willie “The Lion” Smith session, but neither will they mistake one for the other. Adapting distinct roots to the creations at hand, both piano-percussion duos have come up with equally memorable CDs. MORE

December 16, 2002


European Echoes
Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 232CD

The Living Music
Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 231CD

Multi-reedman Peter Brötzmann always insists that when pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and trumpeter Manfred Schoof first heard his pioneering free jazz band in the mid-1960s “they just laughed their asses off. At that time they played the Horace Silver-style thing”. But, by the end of the decade as Brötzmann widened his circle to include other experimenters like Dutch drummer Han Bennink and worked with American jazzers like trumpeter Don Cherry and soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, his fellow Germans began to come around as well. MORE

October 28, 2002


Wilde Señoritas and Hexensabbat
Intakt CD 071

Listening intently to Irène Schweizer’s first two solo piano session a quarter century after they were recorded should put to rest the canard that’s she’s the “female Cecil Taylor” once and for all.

Certainly she plays speedy, non-mainstream piano with unmatched ferocity. But that’s how she evolved her conception of a non-impressionistic keyboard style. Besides that, her rhythmic sense and inside-the-piano intrusions seem to have little in common with Taylor’s American sensibility. They’re more in line with what was then contemporary European New music. MORE

January 24, 2002


Twin Lines
Intakt CD 073

A fine, if ultimately frustrating, meeting of two generations of Swiss improvisers, this CD shows that the generation gap is less pronounced among musicians than most people, but still potent.

Performing as a duo for the past half-decade or so, pianist Irène Schweizer and alto saxophonist Co Streiff followed two different paths to get to this point. Streiff, born in 1959, has had experiences in improv, jazz, ethnic, women’s and rock music. Besides teaching and leading her own sextet, she has played with the likes of percussionist Steve Noble, bassist Joëlle Léandre, the band Kadash and some of guitarist Fred Frith’s graphic scores. MORE

October 22, 2001


Chicago Piano Solo
Intakt CD 065

CHICAGO PIANO SOLO is the perfect disc to put on when dealing with misguided friends who insist that so-called avant- jazz doesn't swing. While swing of course, isn't the be all and end all of jazz, the weighty two handed approach Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer favors here will more likely remind folks of pre-modern stylists like Earl Hines or bluesbopper Ray Bryant than certified avant gardists.

Certainly in her many recordings over the years, Schweizer has never downplayed power in her work and has easily held her own with such self-possessed personalities as saxophonists John Tchicai and Evan Parker, drummers Günter Sommer and Han Bennink and the entire London Jazz Composers Orchestra. MORE

September 20, 2000


Willi The Pig
Atavistic/Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 221 CD

An Ameri-centric view of jazz has always been so shortsighted it could be myopic. In 1975, for example, the average American jazzer was assumed to be pondering whether chops-heavy ex-rockers who were leaching into fusion were "major innovators" on the level of Chuck Mangione or Stanley Clarke; while "purists" were finally accepting boppers into the mainstream so they could bask in the final sparks from that once incendiary movement.

Free jazz was supposed to be as dead as John Coltrane or Albert Ayler, banished from the history books, with the few remaining New Thingers either hidden away in academe or buried in recording studios.


August 24, 2000


Live at the Rhinefalls
Intakt CD 059

It seems almost anachronistic to have to say it in the first year of the 21st century, but the members of Les Diaboliques are some of the best improvising musicians on the planet -- regardless of race, height, nationality or gender.

However since male chauvinism and its obverse, separatist feminism, still exist, note that the performers on this CD are all women. A veritable European Community of talents, the band consists of Swiss pianist Schweizer who has been playing "outside" for more than 30 years; French bassist Léandre, acknowledged as one of the virtuosos of instrument in both jazz and so-called new music; and Scottish singer (and tap dancer) Nicols, who matches improv vocal gymnastics with an actor/comedian's split-second timing.