August 18, 2003
ALEXANDER VON SCHLIPPENBACH TRIO
Atavistic Unheard Music Series UMS/ALP240CD
Asked at one point in the mid-1980s to name his favorite trio disc, British saxophonist Evan Parker cited this 1972 session with Germans, pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach and drummer Paul Lovens, initially recorded for FMP.
Thats not surprising. For at a time when most of the attention on the American jazz scene was focused on the few moments of pure improvisation that showed up in the earliest incarnations of fusion bands like Weather Report and Return to Forever, this disc shows Europeans expanding the improv tradition in their own way.
This reissue adds four additional tracks to the original LP, which, while bringing the time up to proper CD length, merely sound like studio sketches for the previously released compositions. The two eye-openers 30 years ago —and which remain so today — are the title track and the 10-minute Moonbeef.
Pakistani Pomade (the composition), involves a high-intensity, cyclical piano part which finds Von Schlippenbachs alternating his earlier, near-boppish Thelonious Monk-like style with swift Cecil Taylor-influenced feints and runs. Parker contributes bird-like chirps and split tones that turn to out-and-out croaking and squealing as the tune evolves, while Lovens concentrates on his cymbal work and a tambourine rattle.
Trilling long lines and squeals characterize Parkers work on Moonbeef, but the renal squeaks, wiggling lines and rolling spit tones hadnt yet consolidated into the characteristic circular breathing that define much of his playing today. Instead he seems more intent on eviscerating his horns from the inside, a quality also more related to the playing of his New Thing antecedents than he would exhibit today. The pianist on the other hand, still resembles a restrained CT, definitely two-handed, with one steamrolling over the keys as the other pounds out syncopated chords one after another. Lovens varies his attack as they go along, at one point creating half-tone rolls, elsewhere producing metallic clicks from his cymbals and other times sounding conga-drum rhythms. The last happens in the penultimate moments of the tune, when Von Schlippenbach constructs a fantasia of tremolos and glissandos, including what sounds like a foray onto the strings themselves.
At other times Parker outputs tiny squeaks from within his horn as well as creating accented split tones that almost sound like what fellow Brit reedist John Butcher plays today. Still in the experimental stage, his breathing exercises are of a shorter duration, higher pitched and with a much thinner tone than they now exhibit. He does display a few altissimo squeaks that sound like retching or infant cries, however. The overall effect is distinctive, but definitely retro in this context.
Lovens is perspicacious, sometimes extending 1960s stridency with the rub of abrasive material against drum kit parts, but more likely to make his point with the subtle ping of brushes against his cymbals.
As for the pianist, cadenzas and strumming piano chords are on show, often played allegro, so that the drummer must scramble to keep up with him. Yet, especially in the instructive previously unreleased tracks, his playing sounds more quote, traditional, unquote, than he probably wanted to exhibit in those proto-revolutionary times.
On the second-to-last and final pieces for instance, hes involved with repetition and a high-intensity rubato attack featuring plenty of vibrating overtones. Here the Monk influence is particularly strong, with echoes of the Americans fondness for stride piano and blues changes creeping into his solo. A Charlie Rouse-style balladic aside from Parker and a bounce cadence from the drums really puts things into Monk-orbit. Perhaps its these jazz-styled sounds that convinced the players that this track and the three other newly discovered ones shouldnt be released in 1972.
No matter, appended to the original PAKISANI POMADE, the four provide instructive fodder for musicologists and followers of any of the three musicians. And, as Parker himself indicated, on its own, the original disc remains a wholly satisfying landmark of free improv.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Sun-Luck Night Rain 2. Butaki Sisters 3. A Little Yellow (including Two seconds Monk) 4. Ein Husten für Karl Valentin 5. Pakistani Pomade 6. Von G Ab 403-418 7. Moonbeef 8. Kleine Nülle, Evergreen 9. Pakistani alternate #1 10. Pakistani alternate #2 11. Pakistani alternate #3 4. Pakistani alternate #4
Personnel: Evan Parker (soprano and tenor saxophones); Alexander Von Schlippenbach (piano); Paul Lovens (drums)