Manfred Schoof

December 16, 2002

European Echoes
Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 232CD

Alexander von Schlippenbach
The Living Music
Atavistic Unheard Music UMS/ALP 231CD

Multi-reedman Peter Brötzmann always insists that when pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and trumpeter Manfred Schoof first heard his pioneering free jazz band in the mid-1960s “they just laughed their asses off. At that time they played the Horace Silver-style thing”. But, by the end of the decade as Brötzmann widened his circle to include other experimenters like Dutch drummer Han Bennink and worked with American jazzers like trumpeter Don Cherry and soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, his fellow Germans began to come around as well.

They began to come around to such an extent that by 1969 Schlippenbach and Schoof were recording the outside session showcased on these discs, both of which featured international casts, definitely including Brötzmann and Bennink. Since that time the pianist has maintained his free jazz affiliation, most notably in a long-running trio with British saxophonist Evan Parker, who is also on European Echoeshe trumpeter, on the other hand, sticks more to a mainstream style, when he isn’t writing and playing contemporary classical music.

Recorded first The Living Music was an indirect nod to Julian Beck’s experimental Living Theater group that had recently set up shop in Europe. It was also a smaller-sized version of Schlippenbach’s on-again-off-again-massive Globe Unity Orchestra (GUO), with British trombonist Paul Rutherford and Bennink joining the five Germans players.

In a way it’s those two, as well as Brötzmann, who are most impressive on this session. The trombonist who had already worked with London’s Spontaneous Music Ensemble and GUO and would go on to play throughout Europe, is credited with the invention of trombone multiphonics. Here his avant-gutbucket tone intertwines among the other instruments, stylistically neighing in his way like Tricky Sam Nanton did with Duke Ellington’s band. Using what sound like a regular kit expanded with a marimba, a thumb piano, a massive Oriental gong and who knows what else, Bennink has more percussion on hand than Ellington’s flashy Sony Greer ever had.

Like Greer, he uses it judiciously, however, smashing, banging and thumping enough to bring the discordant darker toned instruments together. At times, though, when the pianist attacks the keyboard with particular ferocity, Bennink become even more bellicose, becoming Sunny Murray to Schlippenbach’s Cecil Taylor.

However, since he began playing professionally almost at the same time as CT, Schlippenbach is more a Thelonious Monk man. As a matter of fact, his introductory solo on “Tower” has a pianistic conception that’s definitely Monk-like. Furthermore, despite Brötz’s overblowing — no Charlie Rouse he — and Bennink’s relentless pounding, the pianist’s nearly 11½-minute composition sounds like one of the tunes recorded by those mid-sized Monk ensembles.

Schlippenbach’s cadences and arpeggios are less adventurous elsewhere, especially when Schoof, on cornet, takes the lead. Influenced at that time as much by Ted Curson and other freeboppers as Cherry, the brassman’s “Wave” suggests The Jazz Messengers playing Ornette Coleman. Vying with swinging, foreground percussion, Schoof’s solo is all flourishes, fanfares and note building, facing counterpoint from the saxophone section and Rutherford’s smeared lines. Elsewhere, the British brassman combines with Bennink for exercises in free march time and otherwise — perhaps aided by Niebergall’s little-heard bass trombone — stacks up against the buzzing saxophones and relentless percussion with elongated tones that sometimes sound like the braying of animals.

Throughout, Brötzmann is a holy terror, pumping out notes as if from a machine gun and asserting himself more than anyone else. On one occasion he explodes into a cappella multiphonics, then works his way down his horn, tossing out variations on the theme as he goes along. Although as part of the Schoof Quintet and later on with his own band and work with Lacy, Luxembourg-resident Michel Pilz would be quite well known, he’s oddly reticent here. Only on the cornettist’s Stan-Kenton-meets-Don-Cherry arrangement of “Past Time” do his tart clarinet tone make any impression.

On the other hand, nearly every one of the 16 musicians present gets some solo space on EUROPEAN ECHOES, another of Atavistic’s FMP Archive Edition, recorded two months after Schlippenbach’s CD under Schoof nominal leadership.

It seems nominal because a soon a the fist drum beats echo through the studio, by means of the dual percussion of Bennink and Swiss drummer Pierre Favre, it’s obvious that this almost 32-minute composition is going to be some wild ride. Appropriately named, the disc features all the player on the first CD save Pilz plus Parker and German tenorist Gerd Dudek on saxophones; Italian Enrico Rava and Dane Hugh Steinmetz on trumpets; Fred Van Hove from Belgium and Irène Schweizer from Switzerland on pianos; British guitarist Derek Bailey and bassists Peter Kowald from Germany and Arjen Gorter from Holland.

With the examples of controlled chaos that other large ensembles like New York’s The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, GUO and Brötzmann’s “Machine-Gun” band already created, this disc is most valuable providing aural views of important EuroImprovisers early in their career. Diffident Bailey, for instance, creates some wild, almost rock-oriented electric picking here with such vigor that it overwhelms the dual drummers. A far cry from his present persona as a balladeer, Rava produces some brassy, Don Ayler-like shakes. Meanwhile the triple keyboardists seem to be reconstituted as Cecil Taylor triplets, although during the course of the piece, one — likely Schweizer — offers up some inside piano harp glisses, along the lines for which she would later be better known.

Another small big band session that may have been on everyone’s mind at the time was John Coltrane’s less-than-five-years-old ASCENSION. Facing off against one another with cymbals and snares, flams, press rolls and march beats, Favre and Bennink are no Rich vs. Roach but suggest Elvin Jones times two. Additionally, some of the piano chording relates more to McCoy Tyner’s work with Trane than Taylor’s. All three trumpeters appear to be trying to see who can squeal the highest in bugle range as the theme is elaborated, though the plucked bass parts — when they surface from the din — may be more advanced than what Art Davis and Jimmy Garrison played on Ascension. Dudek, Parker Brötzmann too generate enough screaming split tones to match Trane’s, Archie Shepp’s and Pharoah Sanders’ multiphonics on Ascension, often spitting out several bent notes simultaneously. Finally, as musical shards explode all over like bombs at an anarchist rally, the massed ferment builds to a combative crescendo, ending with the sustained single cymbal echo.

Too young or distanced to have experienced the excitement of 1960s’ Free Jazz? These two discs are the next best thing to being there.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: European: 1. European Echoes Part 1 2. European Echoes Part 2

Personnel: European: Manfred Schoof, Enrico Rava, Hugh Steinmetz (trumpets); Paul Rutherford (trombone); Peter Brötzmann, Gerd Dudek (tenor saxophones); Evan Parker (soprano and tenor saxophone); Alexander Von Schlippenbach; Fred Van Hove, Irène Schweizer (pianos); Derek Bailey (guitar); Peter Kowald, Arjen Gorter (basses); Buschi Niebergall (bass and bass trombone); Han Bennink, Pierre Favre (drums)

Track Listing: Living: 1. The living music 2. Into the Staggerin 3. Wave 4. Tower 5. Lollopalooza 6. Past time

Personnel: Living; Manfred Schoof (cornet and flugelhorn); Paul Rutherford (trombone); Peter Brötzmann (tenor and baritone saxophones); Michel Pilz (bass clarinet and baritone saxophone); Alexander von Schlippenbach (piano and percussion); J.B. Niebergall (bass and bass trombone); Han Bennink (drums and percussion)