Peter Brötzmann / Han Bennink / Alex Von Schlippenbach

January 23, 2020

Fifty Years After… Live at the Lila Eule

Trost TR 194

Evan Parker/Agustí Fernández/Ivo Sans


Vector Sounds V5023

Working within the particular structures of a double bass-less trio are two significant woodwind voices who have helped define the course of free improvisation for more than half a century each. Locations outlines the adaptability of British tenor saxophonist Evan Parker, 75, as he applies his specific reed strategies to seven improvisations with two younger Catalans, pianist Agustí Fernández, who he often plays with, and drummer Ivo Sans, who is a long-time Barcelona associate of the pianist.

Even more defining are Fifty Years After’s five tracks. That’s because they commingle the skills of three of the participants who recorded the monumental Machine Gun session of 1968. They are German reedist Peter Brötzmann, 78, Dutch drummer Han Bennink, 77 and German pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, 81. Although Brötzmann worked steadily with the drummer for years after that session and as recently as 2006, while Bennink has played with the pianist in this century, this CD is one of the very widely separated reunions the reedist has had with Schlippenbach since 1968.

To add historical veracity to the date, as Schlippenbach takes the place of Belgian Fred Van Hove, this trio replicates the instrumentation that Bennink and Brötzmann worked in for nearly a decade. As a further connection to the other CD, Parker also played on the Machine Gun session and since 1972 has been part of Schlippenbach’s trio, with the group completed by German drummer Paul Lovens an admitted Bennink admirer.

Fifty years on the shard Jazz heritage of the trio members is obvious, especially on the extended title track, as spiralling multiphonics from Brötzmann’s horn are met with swing-affiliated keyboard sweeps and swells from Schlippenbach, while later his saxophone’s ferocious high-pitched whines and pinched bellicosity are bent into Bop ballad configurations by Gene Krupa-like rumbles and rolls from Bennink. Fifty years on, Bennink’s jaw-dropping percussion command is still adulterated by his infamous tendency to attack every beat just a touch louder than it should be heard. So for every notable display of a sense of swing and sound coordination that’s almost miraculous, his malevolent drum stomps and cymbal rattling reach points where to fully showcase their ideas the pianist’s composing is forced from fluid to frenetic his chording and Brötzmann, whether playing tenor saxophone, b-flat clarinet or tarogato, must speedily advance to renal groans, triple-tongued screams and spluttering stratospheric sequences. Tellingly, those tracks where the Eastern European-style quivers from clarinet and/or tarogato are most prominent are also the most polyphonic and kaleidoscopic. The reeds’ pinch individuality creates notable motifs which confirm the ever-evolving individuality of the three. Overall though, for sheer energy and excitement Fifty Years After is a great aural ride that can hardly be equalled or topped.

If they were aware of the other disc, it wouldn’t occur to Parker, Fernández and Sans to try to follow that path however. Their individual identities are long established. From the outset Sans is a more subtle percussionist than Bennink, and one who propels rather than pounds out his drum strategies. Note that on the extended “Location 3”, where his integrated pumps, patterned ruffs and ingenious patterning accompany the others’ strategies without demanding singular attention. Fernández’s slippery cross pulsing and note flow build up to tension-inducing counterpoint as Parker’s trills and vibrations move to multiphonic algebra and later moderato circular breathing that cannily connects with the pianist’s kinetic glissandi. Ending the session is the appropriately titled “”Resolution”, the set’s most relaxed track where the tenor saxophonist’s polished trills, the pianist’s low-frequency whole keyboard textures and the drummer’s simple pops wind down into serene tonal expression.

Not to be outdone there are also instances of Parker’s unmistakable smears, slurs and asides which have long characterized his mature style; as well as Fernández’s forays into soundboard motifs which include slashing harp-like emphasis on plucked internal strings. Still these rugged displays are harmonized with more pacific sequences, making Locations a more rounded places to visit.

Whether consisting of grizzled veterans or a mixture of older and younger experienced innovators, each of these trios demonstrates a mastery of the trio form.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Fifty: 1. Fifty Years After 2. Frictional Sounds 3.Bad Borrachos 4. Street Jive 5. Short Dog of Sweet Lucy

Personnel: Fifty: Peter Brötzmann (tenor saxophone, b-flat clarinet and tarogato); Alexander Schlippenbach (piano) and Han Bennink (drums)

Track Listing: Locations: 1. Location 2 2. Location 6 3. No 4. Location 3 5. Location 4 6. Location 5 7. Resolution

Personnel: Locations: Evan Parker (tenor saxophone); Agustí Fernández (piano) and Ivo Sans (drums)