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.

Commencing with an almost 19½-minute improvisation that introduces splayed waterfalls of notes, repetitive right-handed slurs plus vibrant, polyphonic overtones, she interpolates standard jazz licks and kwela references before concluding with passing chords and echoing string clusters.

With her touch thick and syncopated as often as it’s organic and gently balladic, the pianist’s Thelonious Monk-like cadences on one number foreshadow her jaunty, stride infused version of his “Oska T.” – the set’s only non-original – which concludes the official program. “Jungle Beats II”, her encore, is a jumpy and jocular summation of the proceedings, melding jazz’s rubato freedom with the recurring tremolo of South African dance themes.

In the fourth decade of her musical career, the Swiss pianist proves without dispute that a well appointed concert hall is one proper place to hear her music – should she want to play there.

—Ken Waxman

For Whole Note Vol. 12 #3