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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.
The New York City Jazz Record: As a musician based in Europe, is it correct to suppose you don’t often play in New York or North America?
Pierre Favre: Yes, you’re right. I played in the United States most recently in 2000 with percussionist Fredy Studer. The first time was in 1968. I did a two-months drum clinic tour for Ludwig & Paiste with one in New York. All the great drummers like Sunny Murray, Tony Williams, Grady Tate, Andrew Cyrille, were there and I was so impressed because they were all very nice to me. I was even more impressed when Papa Jo Jones gave me a magical lesson at the end of the clinic The second time was when Percussion Profiles, including Jack De Johnette, David Friedman, Dom Um Romao, Fredy Studer, George Gruntz and me played the 1980 Monterey Jazz Festival; and the third time was a 1985 tour, including New York, with vocalist Tamia.
TNYCJR: You’re a self-taught drummer. Where is Le Locle, Switzerland where you grew up? And why were you attracted to the drums?
PF: Le Locle a small town in the mountains of the French part of Switzerland. The first drummer I heard was Max Roach on the the Jazz at Massey Hall LP. It was rare at the time, but a friends of mine had the record and he played it over and over for me. Immediately I fell in love with the drums and spent all my time playing everything I heard and also listening to radio and records. Fortunately I had a good memory and could memorize almost anything very easily. I only had two LPs, both with Big Sid Catlett, who was my biggest influence, He was like a sorcerer, He was precise and fluent when he played time and when he played the melody his unexpected rim shots shaped it and made it swing. At that 1968 New York clinic I was taking to Tony Williams and he told me: ‘Big Sid Catlett was my biggest influence too’. Later on I liked Kenny Clarke and Philly Joe Jones, and of course Elvin Jones, Pete La Rocca, Billy Higgins ... Besides I was always trying things out. I could play simple rhythms for hours, just trying to swing.
By then I was living in Neuchâtel with my parents and I regularly jumped out of the window to go to the bars and try to sit in with dance bands coming through town. Finally, in 1955, one bandleader came to talk to my parents and they let me go to work full time in his dance band. At 17 I wasn’t allowed to play in bars yet, but that bandeader told my parents he’d watch out for me. In 1957 I auditioned for the radio orchestra in Basel. I couldn’t read a note but they liked me. I got the job, but I had to promise to learn how to read music.
In 1960 I left the orchestra and went to Paris for one year and then to Rome where I worked with the American Jazz Ensemble led by clarinettist Bill Smith and pianist Johnny Eaton. In 1961 I went back to Switzerland to work with my own trio. In 1962 I went to Munich playing in the TV orchestra, freelancing in the sudios and appearing frequently with people like Benny Bailey, Don Menza and Booker Ervin. In 1966 I came back to the Paiste & Sohn factory in Nottwil Switzerland as adviser to the Paiste brothers Robert and Toomas. My job was testing of cymbals and organizing drum clinics all around the world. It was a hard but very rewarding job, and I could finally devote myself to playing the way I wanted to. I stayed there until 1971when I moved to Zürich, where I still live.
TNYCJR: Hadn’t you already met pianist Irène Schweizer by that time? Wasn’t she also employed at Paiste & Sohn, supposedly as your ‘secretary’?
PF: I met Irène Schweizer in Zürich during a concert. She told me she was looking for a job,and I asked her to work for me as I needed a secretary. At first we would play together occasionally after work and after some time we were playing together every day.
TNYCJR: You were also one of the first European drummers to turn from American-influenced modern jazz to European-centered free jazz. How did this evolution occur? What change in musical thinking did that involve and what was the audience reaction to it?
PF: This is a quite complex story. Since I began to play I was following the path of American Jazz. This was OK, but I guess that I had enough of the idea people had which was: ‘you’re a pretty good drummer and musician, but any American showing up will be able to play you off the wall’ – and it’s still that way for many people in Europe. But the ‘60s was a period of change and we young people needed a deep breath. For me personally the free jazz idea allowed me to let everything out, who I am, where I come from, etc. It oppened new horizons, my musical breathing. I lived silence which I had not noticed before, dynamics, phrasing and a different sense of time. And all this could be experienced in front of an audience that gave you the chance to feel what is musically true and what isn’t.
TNYCJR: You and Schweizer recorded Santana, one of the early European free-jazz discs, with German bassist Peter Kowald. How did you get involved with him, and later other experimental players?
PF: Irène and I were playing a lot throughout Europe and so we met other musicians
looking for the same type of sounds. At first our bass player was Jiri (George) Mraz. Jiri wanted to emigrate to the US, so Peter took his place. Santana was our own production. We had only one-and-half-hours in the studio so we had to get it out. Through Kowald’s influence we became more loud and busy. I played mostly loud and very busy. But I enjoyed it, it felt like a young dog that you take out to let it run.
TNYCJR: Since then you’ve recorded solo percussion discs and ones with all-percussion ensembles. How do percussion performances differ from those in which you work with other instrumentalists?
PF: I actually started to play solo concerts during the time with Irène and Peter. I was including more cymbals and sounds in my drum set, but the day I brought a gong I figured that it was better for me to just play my drums. Then, boom, I thought: ‘OK, I’ll try all that stuff alone’. A few years later  came Singing Drums for ECM [with Studer, Paul Motian and Nana Vasconcelos playing a variety of percussion instruments]. It was a challenge to compose a whole program for such great musicians. In a solo concert you carry the whole evening on your shoulders, the space belongs to you. When you play with more musicians you share that space, In a way you take a step back, you just play what has to be played. As a drummer you’re there to give pulse, dynamics, fire and color to the band.
TNYCJR: You also at one time played a very extensive kit. Do you still use that many rhythm makers or a conventional set up?
PF: Yes, there were times where I tried to play full melodies on the drums and I came on stage with all kinds of instruments, chromatic tuned gongs, a set of two octaves of tuned small drums ... so many things. Just a few days ago I was remixing my first solo albums and I was surprised how many sounds I could produce then. Since then my set has become simplified. It’s more concentrated; enough for what I have to say.
TNYCJR: Over the years you’ve been involved with musicians in other areas besides what we call jazz. How that involvement came about, why did it happened and what were the challenges and rewards?
PF: I’ve been so lucky that musicians have asked me to play with them at all times. Being curious to learn, I could hardly refuse. This is especially true for the classical music side. I was asked to play John Cage, Maurizio Kagel, Ernst Krenek, Arvo Pärt and others and I never turned down any of these propositions. It’s the same with the folkloric players, I met pipa player Yang Jing in Beijing, she wanted to learn how to improvise, so she came to Switzerland and we improvised. I also played many concerts with the great mridangam player from Madras T.V. Gopalkrishnan. I met bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi through the ECM record Once Upon A Time-Far Away In The South , with [bassist] Charlie Haden and [trumpeter] Palle Mikkelborg. Dino and I also gave a magic concert in duo at the 2001 Willisau Jazz Festival. French vocalist Tamia and I spent many years togther playing, writing, rehearsing. With [Czech violinist/vocalist] Iva Bittova it was only a week but beautiful. I’ve always loved the voice, probably because it’s so near to the drums and also because I have a melodic nature. I always try to find some music where it’s hidden. But during all these years I also played jazz, worked with Albert Mangelsdorf and toured with Jimmy Giuffre, John Surman, John Tchicai and many more. I must add something very important. After having flown over all these different musical countries since 1966 I come back to jazz as what it is, great music, and with great respect and admiration for giants like Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Mingus, the great drummers, and so many others. You see, the jazz water tastes completely different to me now.
TNYCJR: Your Web page lists the compositions you’ve written since 1984. Is this a new development?
PF: Yes it’s certainly a new development for me. After all the improvising years I felt that it was time to drop the mask. I mean I don’t hide myself behind improvisation, but to write down something that should be played exactly needed courage. Usually drummers are rather scared to come up with written material. But composing regularly makes me more inventive on the drums and a better improviser.
TNYCJR: Your most recent Intakt CD, Le Voyage, involves a 10-piece ensemble, whereas most of your other work is with duos or trios. Are larger bands organized because of specific music you want to play or hear? Do you prefer to play in smaller groups?
PF: Some years ago I wrote the music for the group Window Steps, with bassist Steve Swallow, cellist David Darling, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler and soprano saxophonist Roberto Ottaviano for ECM, and later Fleuve also for ECM with saxophonist/clarinetist Frank Kroll, tubaist Michel Godard, harpist Hélène Breschand, guitarist Philipp Schaufelberger, bassist Baenz Oester and electric bassist Wolfgang Zwiauer. These groups which toured, allowed me to hear music I hear but can’t play on the drums. Playing in duo is, of course, very interesting because it’s a dialogue, you listen and answer to one single voice. It’s perfect if you want to know somebody better. And don’t forget that bigger groups need much more work and more money.
TNYCJR: Today it appears that you mostly work with younger Swiss musicians. Is this strategy planned? How do you feel about younger generations of Swiss improvisers? What do they bring to the situation and how do you react musically?
PF: Yes in general it’s a planned strategy. I like to rehearse or, of course, improvise, and it’s difficult to get musicians to come to Switzerland, to rehearse for a few days; they usually come just for the job. But Switzerland is a small country and Swiss musicians can come to my house regularly. Younger players are very enthusiastic. In general they’re hard workers and are very skilled. We improvise, I write the music and they love to rehearse. I show them how to phrase dynamics, how to build a solo. I don’t ignore suggestions coming from any of them, but I work out with them how to make something out of their ideas. Of course talents are talents, the younger players are themselves; they’re not more or not less than the older musicians. The other point is that many of my older friends don’t play anymore – some have gone away.
TNYCJR: Any notable recordings and/or performances scheduled for 2012?
PF: Intakt will be releasing my first three solo albumss from 1971, 1972 and 1986 as a triple-CD set. The label will probably also release a CD of a concert with John Tchicai, Don Cherry, Irène Schweizer and Leon Francioli from the 1981 Willisau Jazz Festival. I’ll also tour with my new quartet The Drummers: Valeria Zangger, Chris Jaeger, Markus Lauterburg.
--For New York City Jazz Record March 2012
March 6, 2012
Intakt CD 170
Creative Sources CS 167 CD
Acknowledged as one of the most accomplished architects of unique reed timbre treatments within improvised music Luzern, Switzerland-based saxophonist Urs Leimgruber’s playing is outstanding in both solo and group situations.
Someone who rarely limits himself when seeking musical partners in ensemble situations, Leimgruber’s strategies are particularly notable on these CD. A nod to the saxophonist’s past, Willisau, recorded in 2008 at the Jazz festival in the Swiss city of the same name, is a reunion gig by the original members of OM, the electrified-Free Jazz quartet which existed from 1972-1982. Recorded four months earlier in Leipzig at another festival, the other CD matches Leimgruber’s skills with those of three younger German players.
Aurona Arona is actually a live follow-up to a fine earlier CD with the same personnel from 2006. Moving force behind Ember and other differently constituted improvised ensembles is keyboardist/percussionist Oliver Schwerdt, who has also recorded with German drummer Günter “Baby” Sommer. However during the two years that separate the Ember discs, Alexander Schubert, who still plays percussion and electronics, has morphed from being a guitarist to a violinist. Furthermore drummer Christian Lillinger has moved to Berlin and now works as part of the Hyperactive Kid trio as well as the bands of clarinetist Rolf Kühn and trombonist Gerhard Gschlöbl.
Varied experiences such as these are noticeable in Lillinger’s playing on the Ember CD. With the pieces evolving quickly and cerebrally, the drummer must be instantaneously prepared to patch together an accompaniment encompassing variegated patterns and resonations culled from bass drum bumps, snare drums rattles and rim shot strokes on one hand, as well as cymbal shrieks and clatters and vibraphone or marimba-like pings with the other.
Timbre exploration from the other musicians is in the forefront from all sides as well. For starters there are Leimgruber’s emotional bleats, multiphonic tongue fluttering, circular breathing and nearly soundless reed expansions. Schubert not only adds skittering fiddle spiccato, but also electronic shimmy and/or granular whooshes to every one of the five tracks. These meandering voltage clangs exist as blurry undercurrents to all the improvisations as well as providing commentary on Schwerdt’s playing. Additionally and on his own, Schwerdt’s distinctive playing ranges from calming, low-frequency patterning to kinetic and metronomic keyboard runs plus electrified harpsichord-like tone fanning and electric organ-like reverberations. Often hard objects are pressed against the piano’s inner strings producing stretches, stops and slides.
For instance, pulsating dual keyboard chording characterizes “Etherlorbien”. Yet these tones appear at the same time as the internal strings clatter percussively. Those unexpected rebounds are the result of hard balls being mashed against or soft mallets striking the wound strings. Simultaneously Lillinger contributes distanced drum beats and cymbal shakes, while Leimgruber’s narrowed trills make up a broken-octave interface that may include additional abrasive scrapes along the outside of his horn. When the piano line downshift to mock-serious processional chording, cymbal squeezes signal the tune’s finale.
Elsewhere, contrapuntal timbral slurs and splatters are inflated. But the ensemble cooperates so well that the result is as much a product of Schubert’s patched shimmies and Lillinger’s percussive prestidigitation as Leimgruber’s tongue-and-air strategies. The pianist fans his keys and plucks internal strings, the drummer exposes ratamacues and rumbles and the saxophonist’s parts range from strident vibrations and peeping split tones to double-tongued polyphony. During the course of “Begen Bginn Fllt” for instance, voltage pitch changes and granular whooshes from Schubert, high-frequency piano syncopation, the drummer’s nerve beats and rim shots, plus bird-twittering from the reedist produce an unmatched textural improvisation. By the final variant, inchoate nonsense syllables mouthed by one or more of the players are added to further thicken the improvisational interface.
Mouth and tongue vocal improvisations are present as well during the exposition for the 12-part suite that make up OM’s reunion concert and CD. Vying with Bronx cheers, onomatopoeia and whistles is rapid verbalization in English and German which eventually foreshadows similar noisy discourses from the quartet’s instruments. Harsh vamping squeaks characterize the saxophonist’s playing here; rattles, splats and shudders make up drummer and percussionist Fredy Studer’s contributions; bassist Bobby Burri outputs a speedy sul tasto bass line; and guitarist Christy Doran produces ringing, choked string licks.
Initially organized before the excesses of Jazz-Rock Fusion hardened into clichés, the OM quartet continues overall to emphasize good taste and compositional construction. Albeit this is done in an atmosphere where Studer, now part of Koch-Schütz-Studer’s Hard Core Chamber Music and Doran, whose most recent band with the percussionist involves Jimi Hendrix tunes, are allowed some pseudo rock-star posturing. At times the guitarist leans into the whammy bar to create distorted flanges and reverb, while the drummer specializes in tough frails, hard cymbal resonation and rolls, strokes and drags. Unexpectedly in one instance Leimgruber adds to the fray, using flutter-tonguing and flattement for tenor saxophone licks that could come from a 21st Century King Curtis.
Fortunately most of the time, Leimgruber continues to work out parts that are either flat-line legato or incorporate an atonal vocabulary of dog-whistle squeals and bear-like growls. Meanwhile, almost oblivious to the sonic shenanigans of the others, Burri maintain a steady rhythmic pace with his sluicing bass line. He carries this regularizing into his solo work, which granted, is spiced with a few sul ponticello runs.
Proving that he too isn’t limited by Fusion strictures, at one juncture Studer bounces out a Latinesque beat, which is swiftly met by expressive pitch variations, flutter tonguing and side-slipping reed bites from Leimgruber, which is a rugged contrast to his usual and more cerebral solo work. Further differentiating his solos from those of most reedists who play in this style however, Leimgruber adds elements of commitment and menace. Ferocious agitato bleats and sound barrier-breaking squeals posit that these forays into the so-called mainstream aren’t that different from his usual styling.
Multiphonic extensions from all concerned occur once the suite moves into its final phrases. Fittingly as well, Leimgruber’s harsh obbligatos are matched with spiky guitar reverb and amp distortion from Doran plus brutal stokes and backbeat pounding from Studer. With the reedist’s continuous peeps add to the shimmering lines created by the others, “Willisau” concludes with a satisfying polytonal thump.
Proving his versatility once again, Leimgruber fully expresses two sides of his personality as a saxophonist on these notable sessions. Hopefully they will lead those unexposed to his multi-talents – perhaps OM’s Fusion-oriented fans – to seek out other and different instances of Leimgruber’s extensive work.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Willisau: 1. Willisau Part I 2. Willisau Part II 3.Willisau Part III 4. Willisau Part IV 4 5. Willisau Part V 6. Willisau Part VI 7. Willisau Part VII 8. Willisau Part VIII 9. Willisau Part IX 10. Willisau Part X 11. Willisau Part XI 12. Willisau Part XII
Personnel: Willisau: Urs Leimgruber (soprano and tenor saxophones); Christy Doran (guitar and devices); Bobby Burri (bass and devices) and Fredy Studer (drums and percussion)
Track Listing: Aurona: 1. Aruna Aurora 2. Flaudanne Cllltk 3. Oud Shhd Aiier 4. Begen Bginn Fllt 5. Etherlorbien
Personnel: Aurona: Urs Leimgruber (soprano and tenor saxophones); Oliver Schwerdt (piano, organ and percussion); Alexander Schubert (violin and electronics) and Christian Lillinger (drums and percussion)
July 23, 2010
HANS KOCH/MARTIN SCHUTZ/FREDY STUDER
Intakt CD 094
Almost 15 years after they first conceived of the appellation hard core chamber music, the sounds of Swiss trio Koch-Shütz-Studer (KSS) seem to have presaged a lot of what today flies under the banner of modern improv.
These eight performances, recorded in Venice, New York and a couple of Swiss locations between 2001 and 2003 show a mastery of melding jazz-style improv with harder rock-style beats and effects, plus shifting electronic impulses. At the same time the impulses from Hans Kochs reeds and electronics, Martin Schützs cellos and electronics plus Fredy Studers percussion are now so linked that its difficult to hear where one ends and the next begin. Unlike some of KSSs disappointing recent collaborations with rappers and the like, LIFE TIED impresses by putting in bold relief what the basic trio can do.
Similarly, you couldnt ask for a more appropriate example of this than the title track. Initially, primitivistic gong and conga drum-like beats are extended with electronics side bands as Koch vibrates juicy chalameau clarinet tones. These snorting reed slurs accelerate and are met by Studer manipulating the rims and sides of his drums at a slightly slower pace that is soon joined by Schützs walking bass line. Nerve beat and snare top pummeling take on a snaky electronic mist as the other two push out squeaks and slides. Squealing vulture-like cries from Koch interrupt the drummers steady flams and reverberations as do fuzz-tone buzzes. Finally the piece concludes with an amplifier drone.
Other tracks showcase further sound permutations such as In drei akten and Vom verschwinden.The first features complex, shimmering electronic loops bisected by split tone reed smears that turn to tongue-slapping pulses. These modules are augmented still more into double time as cello plucks and rhythmic drum patterns appear. In the penultimate minutes Studers metronomic time keeping turns into a modified back beat, Schützs strings introduce sideband signals and Koch seems to be breathing out a straight obbligato that intersects with (pre-recorded) curved repetitive stops.
More outer space-like then the watery output of the first, the latter piece focuses on constantly turning percussion impulses that are evidently trying for a non-terrestrial connection through wiggling, synthesizer-style lines. Meanwhile the other two players are squeaking microtones at one other. In Kochs case, short tongue-slaps flutter on top of twittering, ever-changing wave forms from Schütz until growling colored air meets the occasional legato cello line. Glottal stops and whistles eventually disperse into disappearing breaths.
Other sounds include percussion and string combinations that sound like a Thalys train at full throttle; airy, arching, flutter-tongued squeals overlaying sideband oscillation from Koch; and animal-like spiccato squeaks as if a dirty cloth is being harshly tugged up and down on the cellos strings.
Now that the rest of the improv world has caught up with them, it will be interesting to see what future tricks Koch-Shütz-Studer introduce to displace the now expected hard core chamber music sounds.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. No time for dinner 2. In drei akten 3. The burning tongue 4. Last rubber 5. Life tied 6. Comes and gones 7. The whispering and hammering ritual 8. Vom verschwinden
Personnel: Hans Koch (soprano and tenor saxophones, bass clarinet and electronics; Martin Schütz (electric 5-string cello, acoustic cello and electronics); Fredy Studer (drums and percussion)
March 28, 2005
TOM & GERRY
IGNAZ SCHICK/ANDREA NEUMANN
FREDY STUDER/DJ M. SINGE
Duos 14 -20
For 4 Ears CD 1242
Electro-acoustic instruments have massively modified the improv world over the past half-decade. While some musicians have stayed clear of synthesizers, turntables, PowerBooks and other sorts of electronic manipulation, others -- especially in Europe -- have adopted these gizmos wholeheartedly. Were now at a point where with what and how an individual creates is becoming less important than the end result.
Much more fascinating is that finally -- like there are with acoustic instruments -- different styles and techniques have been developed to create with electronics. The four discs here, for instance, all have an electronic component. But like comparing the tenor saxophone playing of Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins, it would be difficult to confuse the electronic-acoustic imagination of any one of these musicians with any other.
One-half of Tom & Gerry, with American drummer Gerry Hemingway, Cologne, Germany-based synthesizer player Thomas Lehn was originally an improvising pianist and he brings that keyboard touch and sense of dynamics to this duo, which has been together since 1997. Lehn, who is also involved with a circuit board full of other combos, including Konk Pack with British master percussionist Roger Turner, certainly knows how to interact with a drummer. In this duo situation he simply takes the role of all the other instruments and lets Hemingway supply the percussive undertones.
Most impressive when they have the space and momentum to create, the two turn Titanium Salute into a virtual-reality-big-band salute for the 21st century. With Hemingway coming across like a Space Age Chick Webb in his intro, Lehn uses his instrument to riff like a horn section in response then resonates pseudo guitar and bass string sonics. Ray gun and rocket ship fire out of his synth, melding with the drummers laser beam rhythms, reifying the link between Sun Ras electronics and Webbs orchestral precision.
More outwardly electric, Girandola, a 13½-minute sound exploitation, moves from a hushed snare and floor tom concoction to a high-pitched ballet of electronic beats and drum echoes. The tune twists, turns and wriggles, with outer space-like whooshes, quasi-sax squalls, prolonged buzzes, and what could be someones footsteps vying for supremacy with the subtle click of crossed drum sticks, snare palm spanks and a discharge of sharp sounds from Hemingway. Later surf music suggestions bubble up from Lehns fingers as the drummer hammers out a steady tattoo.
Quicker tempos allow the two to expand the palate even further as the synthesizer player produces sounds that could be a Martian ray gun, the circularly breathed notes of a saxophone, stretched rubber bands and falsetto hunting horn quivers. Lehn can even morph into Keith Emerson circa 1971, firing portable synthesizer bullets into an arena crowd. Meantime movement and excitement is intensified as Hemingway does everything from softly sounding a triangle to sprinting sticks along the shells, rims and skins of his kit, or slowly scraping the cymbal tops. Near-soundless hisses characterize slower tunes like Walking into Sky, the final number, which attempt to decelerate the duos sounds and fade into nullity, only be halted by a final synth buzz.
That ultimate sound pinpoints the difference between Tom & Gerrys excitable hullabaloo and the collaboration between German synthesizer player Ignaz Schick and inside-piano stylist Andrea Neumann. An electronics fundamentalist, Schick works in other electro-acoustic configurations like Perlonex, as well in Phosphor with Newman, a former classical pianist, who excels on prepared and electronically treated piano. This duo CD appears to be an attempt to create as near soundless an aural field as possible.
Suggesting tones rather than playing them, Neumann often appears to be performing a near-noiseless autopsy on the guts of the piano. Only rarely can you discern her sounding a couple of keys, running her hand over the strings, or plucking one. Similarly, Schick seems to prefer an aural concept that resembles sine wave flatlining. Rumbles, static, whooshes, whines, plinks and clicks are also prominent, or at least as prominent as anything designed to be noiseless can appear.
Seemingly operating on top of a sonic groundcover continuously decorated with electronic whooshes, repeated keyboard notes and what sounds like a toy xylophone being hit or the air being let out of a balloon occasionally surface.
Interaction finally foregrounds on Petit VI, the final track, with radio tuning static giving way to musically-oriented up and down movements, which accelerates from slow near soundlessness to speedy white noise characterized by crackles, buzzes and electronic rumbles.
Recording TABIT on his own six months previously, Schick sounds livelier. Cautioning in a sleeve note against prolonged or repeated listening due to extreme frequencies, this seemed to mean that hes added sampled radio broadcasts and a more constant sound field to his explorations.
Again moving between buzzes, rumbles, squishes, static and loops, the high frequencies means that the sounds are at times earsplitting, but altogether more audible than what came out of his duet with Neumann. With the crinkle of electronic static a constant leitmotif, he produces what could be likened to a jackhammer in steady use, a car driving off, rocket ship exploration of the cosmos and even a dentists drill. Radio programming can also be perceived, but its sometimes so indistinct that you may be tempted to try to fine-tune the station.
Like Hemingway, a percussionist open to many musical situations, Swiss drummer Fredy Studer is probably best known for the so-called Hardcore Chamber Music he plays with the long-running Koch, Schütz and Studer trio. The three recorded with two American turntablists -- one of whom was DJ M. Singe -- for a middling session a couple of years ago, and this CD can be heard as a continuation of that experiment.
A more palatable disc than the former, since Singe -- real name Beth Coleman -- shows up with electronics as well as her turntable and Studer uses a larger collection of percussion implements, it will still probably appeal more to specialists.
Again the weakness appears to be in its sameness, simplicity and standardization, with the almost 51 minutes of the CD appearing to be much, much longer. Based on constant electronic loops and buzzes, its rare that the drummer manages to create anything more than standard beats. For instance the simple rock music-like press rolls linked to a French chanson sample on Duo 15 dont seem to do much more than decorate that record as its manipulated backwards and forward by the DJ.
In even more extended form, as on Duo 19, the electronic effects merely appear to reflect clean-up day at the computer lab. Soon the odd clinks and electronic hums are interrupted by a cheesy recording of a string section, as if the cleaner had suddenly bumped into a revolving turntable upsetting an already playing LP. When the addition of what seems to be the sound of the mixing board being pulled across the floor is succeeded by drum beats and vibes intonations, the tiny recorded voices are massaged back and forth so they accelerate and start to resemble barking dogs. As sped up and slowed down percussion interruptions to the buzzing electronic loops sometimes vie with pre-recorded dialogue or singing, the end product really never really makes it past pastiche.
These sessions prove without a doubt that adapting electro-acoustics to improvisation brings with it a variety of sometimes insurmountable challenges, especially if when trying to deal with traditional instruments.
--- Ken Waxman
Fire: Track Listing: 1.Pots a feu 2. Coconut Pistil 3. Floating Leaves 4. Dragon Eggs 5. Girandola 6. Fishes & Whistles 7. Ripple to Red Wave 8. Titanium Salute 9. Walking into Sky
Fire: Personnel: Thomas Lehn (analog synthesizer); Gerry Hemingway (drums, percussion, voice)
Petit: Track Listing: 1. Petit I 2. Petit II 3. Petit III 4. Petit IV 5. Petit V 6. Petit VI
Petit: Personnel: Ignaz Schick (live electronics); Andrea Neumann (inside-piano)
Tabit: Track Listing: 1. Radox 2. Tabit 3. Rem 4. Astat
Tabit: Personnel: Ignaz Schick (live electronics)
Duo: Track Listing: 1. Duo 14 2. Duo 15 3. Duo 16 4. Duo 17 5. Duo 18 6. Duo 19 7. Remix Native Land (death mix) 8. Remix Native Land (electro) 9. Remix crash 10. Duo 20
Duo: Personnel: Fredy Studer (drums, percussion, gongs, metal, water); DJ M. Singe (turntables, electronics)
January 15, 2002
KOCH/SCHUTZ/STUDER/DJ M. SINGE/DJ I-SOUND
Roots And Wires
Intakt CD 060
Like Latin sounds, rock music, flutes and the electric guitar -- to pick four earlier "oddities" at random -- jazz music has adapted to a clutch of unexpected sounds over the years. Now the musicians featured here, plus others, have figured out how to make use of electronics and turntables.
The way to do it, of course, is to take what's produced by the needle and cartridge as another part of the mix. Perceptive musicians don't let these sounds or electronic shimmers supersede their improvisations any more than earlier jazzmen gave in to the sweet prettiness of many Tin Pan Alley melodies.
It's not surprising that the successful adaption of these new sounds come from European musicians -- Swiss in this case. For with the different strands of "foreign" musics coursing through that continent for centuries, these Eurojazzers seem best to be able to accept turntable art as merely something else to literally play with.
It's also no shock that it's Koch, Schütz and Studer who work so well in this context. Together since 1990, the three already balance sequenced sounds and live-electronics with their own acoustic instruments, creating what they call Hardcore Chamber Music. Collaborations with traditional musicians from Egypt and Cuba have also been part of their agenda. This partnership on the other hand works only sporadically.
On ROOTS AND WIRES noteworthy fusion occurs on "Loop Eleven", where the sounds of a tenor saxophone matches the "scratches" from the turntable, creating a duet which dissolves into bluesy cello playing until what appears to be a banjo escapes from the intense electronic murk. "First Class Scenario" -- perhaps a comment on the proceedings -- is more of the same, with what sound like sine waves mixing with the clear sound of a clarinet that first complements than supersedes the electronics.
Moreover despite the co-billing, "found sound" of recorded voices and music appears only intermittently, with the only remarkable use occurring on "Dread bread". There a sampled voice first morphs into what appears to be bird songs than becomes sequenced electronics.
The problem is that that track, as well as "Notausstieg II", is that they feature Schütz and Studer creating some of the most ponderous anvil-pounding riffs this side of a Bad Company record.
That overweight is the main drawback for those who give heavy rock a wide berth. While reedist Koch uses a multitude of horn sounds to accommodate a non-jazz conception, the drummer and electric cellist appear to think that if it ain't got that swing it's gotta rock and make like Geddy Lee and Neil Peart of Rush too much of the time
Not all is lost though. In small doses this session impresses. In fairness perhaps, the three Europeans haven't yet figured out the best way to react to the DJs, who, they may see as indigenous music makers like the Egyptians and the Cubans.
Here's an idea. Next time out why not blend Swiss precision and DJ soul with some Arabic and Latin sounds? Throwing everything together may soften the rhythms and produce a really historic date.
Tracks: 1.The background is the foreground then delirium, 2.Thai speed parade 3.First class scenario 4.Loop eleven 5.Dread bread 6.Could fun be the bright side of fear? 7. Notausstieg II 8. Tonschlaufenumarmung
Personnel; Hans Koch, bass clarinet, soprano and tenor saxophone, electronics, sequencer; Martin Schütz, electric five-string cello, cello, electronics, sequencer; Fredy Studer, drums, percussion; DJ M. Singe, turntables; DJ I-Sound, turntables
April 7, 2000