Schlippenbach Trio

Winterreise
psi 06.10

Familiarity breeds attempts at new improvisational patterns – at least in the case of this fine CD. For with a shared history since 1972, members of this German/British trio still finds virgin musical territory to explore.

It helps that the aggregation is comprised of some of Free Music’s most accomplished improvisers. London-based tenor saxophonist Evan Parker, a master of circular breathing, showcases his technical prowess elsewhere in situations ranging from big bands to solo. Berlin-based pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach’s quirky percussive attack confirms his life-long fascination with Thelonious Monk. When not in this trio, German drummer Paul Lovens sparks many long-term or ad-hoc formations throughout the Continent.

A recital encompassing one 46½-minute track and another of almost 20½, Winterreise shows how the trio allows textural and spatial impulses to percolate among themselves. While the shorter track exposes pumping inside-piano vibrations, precise drum ruffs and flams, plus the reedist’s glottal note formation, the larger aural canvas allows for substantially sustained as well as masterful strokes.

Mixing pointillism and hard-edge in a painterly fashion, the trio program builds from a muted exposition to a multi-textured crescendo that’s equal parts tensile multiphonics and basement growls from Parker; metronomic note clusters from Schlippenbach; and cross-sticking cymbal clacks from Lovens. As surges of circular breathing and dramatic Monkish power chords relax into random note variations, the widely spaced patterns become conclusively legato, and are finally invigorated with a reed-biting coda.

— Ken Waxman

For Whole Note Vol. 12 #5