SCHLIPPENBACH QUARTET

Hunting The Snake
Atavistic/Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP 213 CD

One of the longest lasting of Euroimprov groups — since 1972 — the trio of Parker/Schlippenbach/Lovens was also unique because, until the 1990s, it recorded so infrequently.

But that's understandable as well. German pianist Schlippenbach was busy with first the Globe Unity Orchestra and then the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra; German drummer Lovens was sideman of choice for everyone from Cecil Taylor to Eugene Chadbourne; and Englishman Parker — citizen of the world — was behind the microphone with everyone from a Tuvan throat singer to Italian improvisers.

Consequently, a more than 77-minute session recorded early in their career together (1975) is like discovering buried treasure. That it was one of the few times the three performed as a quartet — with the addition of pioneering German free bassist Kowald makes it more precious.

Impeccably recorded by Radio Bremen, the CD shows that even at this juncture the trio members had developed a penetrating congruence, with Lovens, especially, was emphasizing his cymbals' many properties. More to the point, on this disc, Kowald fits in like a ball in a socket. Notably, though, when there's no piano sound, the other three resemble a version of Parker's other famous trio with bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton.

Looking back from a 2000 perspective, it's surprising to realize just how "jazzy" — compared to so-called "free" — the band was. There are points, such as on "Moonbeef", where Schlippenbach's solos are mainstream enough to fit into any progressive piano trio.

Endless circular breathing wasn't yet perfected by Parker at this time either. So, while he experimented with it, as on the title tune here, he was as likely to use cries, reverberation, double stops, whistles, variations and interjections as respiratory exercises to tell his story. Backdrop was provided by cymbal crackles, piano wipes and bass note shaping.

Much more than history, HUNTING is a first class sonic adventure and one that definitely deserves to be heard.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Glen Fleshie 2. Moonbeef 3. Hunting The Snake 4. Wenn Wir Kehlkopfspieler Uns Unterhalten

Personnel: Evan Parker (soprano and tenor saxophones); Alex Von Schlippenbach (piano); Peter Kowald (bass); Paul Lovens (drums, selected drums and cymbals)