FMP/FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION - An Edition of Improvised Music 1989-2004


Bert Noglik


Günter Sommer - Sylvain Kassap - Didier Levallet

Journeys made together through different landscapes. Trips to concert halls and small cultural centres. Stages which become a podium for divergent musical conversations. Chamber music with dance-like ease. A stroke of luck: European Jazz. Unmistakably rooted in the cultural experience of the Old World, emancipated from the American hero images and, at the same time, always inspired by them as by dear, distant relatives. The sovereignty of free improvisation achieved since the seventies is integrated as well as this joy of vocality of folk music which is not so easy to actualize in concrete folk sounds and which has not inaptly been called 'imaginary', owing to a lack of more specific sources of reference.

A feast of the senses. Günter Sommer in the free flow of playing with his French friends. Sommer's 'French Connection' with Sylvain Kassap began early on at the beginning of the eighties. Jean Rochard, at that time producer of the NATO label, invited European improvisers from all directions to the pilgrimage village of Chantenay-Villedieu. This is also where Günter Sommer recorded "Hörmusik Zwei" in 1983 which, as a sequel to the first "Hörmusik" recorded for FMP and presented in live concerts, continued his own individual design of the sound cosmos of drums and percussion. With logical consistency, Günter Sommer integrates the experience gained through his solo playing into the duo with Sylvain Kassap which had already been extended to a trio in the early years through Didier Levallet: Extension of the sound spectrum and concentration on the sonorities. The 'Solo-Hörmusik', initially so-called because Sommer played behind cloth screens and was not visible to the audience in order to direct their attention to listening, is transformed and integrated into a dense trio interaction.

In Sylvain Kassap, more or less ten years his junior, Günter Sommer found a musical partner who, with his own special approach, looks for ways to contribute to the 'happenings' with his own sounds. At the same time, he knows how to employ each one of his instruments very specifically. And even if, at times, he is reminiscent of Michel Portal or Louis Sclavis on the clarinets or, occasionally, Evan Parker on the saxophones he is musically quite independent, his own man. When he plays two reed instruments at the same time, he does not only remind one of Rahsaan Roland Kirk who one of the pieces is dedicated to, but also of the double-reed traditions of the Mediterranean area. Stroke of luck: European Jazz. The experienced Didier Levallet knows how to use the bass in all manner of ways, as a soloist and as a group player which seems very related to Günter Sommer's playing. Günter Sommer gets the entire arsenal of his percussion instruments going, creates complex rhythmic patterns and integrates melodic elements at the same time.

The three musicians tell each other stories and they do not only know how to invent musical narrative but also how to listen. "There are many reasons for going to France", Günter Sommer wrote, quite a long time ago now. He added: "Some of the good reasons have to do with my profession." As it were: meeting friends through the medium of music and driving through different landscapes, also landscapes of art, culture and culinary art. Savoir-vivre will probably always remain a magic word for us Germans which can actually be a reality in France, far beyond all clichés. You have to imagine: During the eighties Günter Sommer was traveling with the passport of a political system which has not exactly made history as home of the liberated being. But not only in the concerts in France, also in the ones in the former GDR, Günter Sommer, Sylvain Kassap and Didier Levallet celebrated the joy of group playing, of free and emotional improvising. In this sense, the pieces also represent life stories, at the same time. They connect up with memories of venues, of the culture of playing and listening and tributes to close friends like the jazz promoter Peter Metag.

These recordings were made a good ten years after the beginnings of the trio during the FMP "Workshop Freie Musik" in Berlin. It has been a good ten years since these recordings and the trio still exists, with unchanged vitality.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

zurück / back