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


Andreas Müller


It is really quite simple. Nothing dramatic, nothing sensational, easy to put into words: two men get together - both rated as master musicians - to play a concert. We think we know them.

Louis Sclavis, the Frenchman - various clarinets: he is one of the busiest improvisors on the scene. During the seventies he sparkled, most non-Frenchmen only becoming aware of him much later, at the "Workshop de Lyon" (immediately that most often used term "folklore imaginaire" springs to mind), international critics deigned him undeniable authority on his instrument, and moreover he is seen as a major innovator. The British magazine "Wire" - a thoroughly honourable institution - calls him simply "the most fascinating clarinet player of our time".

Ernst Reijseger - cello: one tends to subsume him under the term "scurrilous Dutchmen" (now mainly because of their visual antics). He has been on the Improvising scene for more than two decades - he has played with Derek Bailey, he sounds his cello in the "ICP Orchestra" of 'master' Mengelberg, in the groups of Gerry Hemingway and in "Trio Clusone", amongst others.

Both musicians continuously weave folkloristic elements into their playing. The Duo has been in existence since the middle of the eighties, only a few people know about it, concerts are rare, one can definitely not speak of a "working group". In Berlin Louis Sclavis and Ernst Reijseger came together for one of those rare meetings.

It was on 30. and 31. July 1994 during the "Fall in Jazz - Summer Music", a fine series of concerts, dedicated to small groups. The framework for these events is well chosen - the "Haus am Waldsee" - a time-honoured villa - is optimally suited for chamber music-like performances. But the conditions were still to prove quite a problem this time. Although the "Haus am Waldsee" was filled down to the last chair, the weeks of continuous hot weather made going to a concert anything but a pleasure.

I mainly remember a soaked-through audience, two musicians bearing the conditions and Ernst Reijseger calling out ".....und wir reden nicht von das Wetter!" (".....and we won't talk about the weather").

I have to admit that I did not get much out of the music that evening, my thoughts kept revolving around the weather and the prospect of a cool drink... Only while listening to the first pressing of this CD were my ears to open up. I had missed a minor sensation, had actually sweated away a great musical event. Ernst Reijseger and Louis Sclavis had succeeded, once again, in conjuring up a 'wonder' of Improvisation. Against all odds they managed to create their own unique music - concentrated, consistent, autonomous, free(d) (this music could also have been created in a well-tempered studio).

Here are two musicians who have known each other for a very long time.

Chamber music? "Folklore imaginaire"? Free Jazz? Whoever needs categories, please pick your own. It is not easy to put into words what makes this music - the vocabulary is simply exhausted.

Louis Sclavis and Ernst Reijseger had got together to play a concert. They have added a small piece to the greater history of Improvised Music.
No more - and no less.

Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

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