It seems to be largely an ‘European thing’ but the fact is many contemporary pianists will frame some the presentation of their latest music by bemoaning the fact that nothing ‘new’ seems to have written or performed on the piano by musicians living or even dead for more than 100 years. (Presumably they are making a cross-reference here and mean post-Liszt, or even post-Rachmaninoff). Oddly enough several of these rare birds play in the realms of Jazz or free(ly)-improvised music. A quizzical frown apart, one usually offers up at least three names; Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols and Muhal Richard Abrams. Of course there are a few more. Not too many, but a few more. In Europe alone (the continent of the offenders) there is Alexander von Schlippenbach, a man who has been de-constructing many conventions even before he became famous through his Globe Unity Orchestra which has been active for forty years – with Gunter Hampel and Manfred Schoof, for instance.
And Alexander von Schlippenbach is still at it. What better example can there be of this fact than the Warsaw Concert? The monumental improvisation “Warsaw Concert” that occupies almost the entire disc is a case in point. It’s no exaggeration to say that here Von Schlippenbach reveals – through incredible sleight of hand that makes for an uncanny control of the neural impulses that propel his fingers – something that is virtually akin to plumbing the psychological depths of an instrument that becomes animate with even the most delicate stroke of the finger. On the almost one hour long track he exercises an animal magnetism on the instruments of his partners: the prodigious saxophonist Evan Parker and the extroverted percussion colourist, Paul Lovens. The three musicians seem willing to throw themselves into any situation, giving of themselves physically – with viscerally exciting results – and artistically – by performing impossible feats up and down the keys and on the skins. Together and separately, each musician also demonstrates the ability to remain rooted in a groove – evidenced beautifully on “Where is Kinga” – while also floating weightlessly, driving the improvisations into a rarefied realm.
As Alexander von Schlippenbach reminds us, throughout this performance of an hour or so, he is creating a music of extraordinary invention, embellished, no doubt, with unbridled recklessness on his part as well as on the parts of saxophonist Evan Parker and the drummer Paul Lovens. The variety of approaches to free improvisation and the finesse of delivery are evident in these two pieces that were performed and captured live on October 16, 2015 at the Ad Libitum Festival in Warsaw, Poland. Alexander von Schlippenbach, Evan Parker and Paul Lovens are clearly worthy representatives of the proud tradition of programmatic and free-improvised music that stretches from Germany and Britain to the explosive scene in the United States that includes Stockhausen, Walter Goehr, Robin Holloway as well as Braxton, Abrams and Threadgill.
Track List: Warsaw Concert; Where Is Kinga?
Personnel: Alexander von Schlippenbach: piano; Evan Parker: tenor saxophone; Paul Lovens: drums.