Milo Fine (1984)

Globe Trotting


For a label that’s going under, Germany’s Free Music Production certainly refuses to quietly fade away – choosing instead to issue as many records as possible before its inevitable (?) end. But then, as the label that most documented the “kaputt-play” and its various offshoots, could one expect any less?

Pianist ALEXANDER VON SCHLIPPENBACH is present on two new releases. The first finds him in the (perhaps too) familiar company of tenor/soprano saxophonist Evan Parker and percussionist Paul Lovens with Alan Silva taking the bass chair once occupied by Peter Kowald. The music on ANTICLOCKWISE (FMP 1020) is quite pleasant, but will present no new angles for those acquainted with this group. Side one’s “Ore” is a rather steady-state medium intense blow featuring solos and some nice interaction. The title cut (side two) presents a long floating, drone, sparse and even ballad-like section (perhaps the highlight of the record) before the closing blow-out - 37:18; recorded 9/11/82.

RONDO BRILLANTE (FMP 1040) pairs Schlippenbach with fellow pianist MARTIN THEURER. It’s a fun meeting that doesn’t hold up that well to repeated listenings – more energy and technique than creative substance. The most interesting cuts are “Das Mondappeninenharpsichord II” and “Des Stimmers Alp”. On the former, one pianist (Theurer?) is inside the box with plucking and prepared sounds while the other works on the keyboard. In this situation, one senses the two players interacting with some subtlety, a quality mostly lacking when they’re both flailing at the keyboard. The latter again features one pianist “inside” (this time, it seems, with some percussion or junk) while the other improvises clearly articulated bass lines. Other titles are Marmelstein Impromptu/Rondo Brillante/Ballade für Barbara/In der Piano Bar - 37:43; recorded 12/3-4/82.

Bassist PETER KOWALD’s latest also pairs him with an instrumental counterpart (though MAARTEN ALTENA plays cello as well as bass on TWO MAKING A TRIANGLE (FMP 0990). On Kowald’s last “two-bass-hit” (with Barry Guy) one was struck by he immediate energy and tenacity of the players. Here, there is no less creativity, but the approach is more spatial with less direct aggression. The majority of the pieces - a->c/b->c/c->a+b/c->(a+b)²/ c²->(a+b)² - center themselves around an improvised idea; prepared bass walking over which an arco cello sings (in a style that harkens images of cello specialist Tristan Honsinger), warbly plucking, pizzicato rhythmic “changes”, etc. These ideas recur during the course of the improvisation, less as crutches than points of reference. The remaining two cuts - a+b->c/(a+b)²->c - are successful free dialogues. Besides showing a great deal of pizzicato and arco facility, both players also engage in overtone exploration, some effective detuning and preparation as well as the occasional vocal yelp. A most rewarding 37:46 recorded 3/19-20/82.

BERLINER BEGEGNUNG (SAJ-47) is a surprisingly obvious album from pianist FRED VAN HOVE featuring Wolfgang Fuchs (ssi, cl, bcl) and Peter Hollinger (dr, perc). Obvious in that his usual richly oblique sense of contrapuntal free improvisation is absent, replaced here by a somewhat unyielding drive that harkens back to his days with Brötzmann/Bennink. Still, the music works very well throughout the four cuts (Begegnung 3b / Begegnung 3a / Begegnung 3c / Begegnung 1a – 38:10; recorded 6/25/83. As ever, Van Hove provides a wide support base with his constantly shifting angles. Fuchs is quite an enervating player, particularly on sopranino where he elicits a piercing tone and driving lines with narrow parameters. Though he has appeared too good effect on other albums, it is here that he seems to have found his most sympathetic and complimentary environment. Drummer Hollinger is quite choppy, but a good foil for this music.

The next SAJ disk (SAJ-41) takes us from Germany to England for a 3/26/80 radio concert of BARRY GUY & THE LONDON JAZZ COMPOSERS ORCHESTRA. Personnel for STRINGER (41:14) are Kenny Wheeler / Harry Beckett / Dave Spence, tp, flh; Paul Rutherford, Alan Tomlinson / Paul Nieman, tb; Melvyn Poore, tuba; Trevor Watts / Evan Parker / Peter Brötzmann / Larry Stabbins / Tony Coe, rds; Phil Wachsmann, viol; Howard Riley, p; Tony Oxley / John Stevens, dr, perc; Barry Guy / Peter Kowald, b. The album is divided into four parts entitled “Four Pieces For Orchestra”. Guy has come up with appealing and elastic structures and arrangements that make excellent use of the improvisational abilities of the improvisational abilities of the participants. At times the soloists don’t quite rise to the occasion, most notably Riley on “1”, Coe and Poore on “3”, and Wheeler on “2”, who seems to have a bit of trouble sustaining interest. However the greater percentage of individual work is quite powerful and/or engaging, including Brötzmann’s trademark screeching intensity on “2” (which literally jumps out of the metronome-like structure); Wachmann’s enigmatic electronics/violin combinations which set the stage (and conclude) the floating textures of “1”; the drum duet (with Oxley also on electronics) opening “4”; bass dialogues, solos by Rutherford and Tomlinson on “4”; and some driving linear expansions from Watts on “1”.

The final two of this latest FMP batch feature American musicians. The first A CONCERT IN BERLIN (SAJ-46) by pianist MARILYN CRISPELL caused the listener a good amount of reflection beyond the music itself. As of late, Ms. Crispell has been receiving a good amount of hype from different factions of the Jazz press. A little hype is a dangerous thing. Those “worthy” of such an “honour” often begin producing works/documents of inconsistent quality as they allow themselves to become disoriented by the various factions of parties “interested” in their work. Those with more promise than substance (such as Ms. Crispell) often spend (too) much time trying to live up to the hype, as well dealing with many of those same “interested” parties. And then there is the listener who, more often than not, listens with the sound of the hype rather than the music echoing in one’s ear. The musician (or artist) and the listener (or perceiver) must both work to get beyond the hype and down to business – easier said than done. That said this reviewer’s feeling about the album at hand is that it is quite good. Crispell has a developing independence of the hands that make for some engaging interaction. This can most clearly be heard on “Rounds” and “Spaces & Elements” (though the latter starts out a bit stiffly). One can also hear it during “Pulsations, Spirals”, “Into The Blue” and “America” but on these pieces the shadow of Taylor looms (less on “America” than the other two) a bit too strongly. “Blue” and “Ode To Messiaen” also suffer from overuse of the sustain pedal. “Early Light” features some basic work inside the piano while the closing “Evidence” is an effective broken and rolling reading of the Monk piece. Crispell’s voice is developing nicely though is not at this time, really substantial enough to warrant three albums on three labels (9/83, p. 51; 1/84, p. 70) in less than a half year. (43:02; recorded 7/2/83).

Throughout the UNITED FRONT’s LIVE IN BERLIN (SAJ-45) one senses a genuine sincerity and (often simplistic) earnestness, to say nothing of the personal and business professionalism of the musicians (George Sams, tp; Lewis Jordan, as; Mark Izu, b; Anthony Brown, dr). But all this cannot overcome the contrived (albeit heartfelt for them) nature of this music. Its thrust comes from neo-bop/free Jazz sensibilities to which is added a social, that, when expressed through their arrangement of Langston Hughes’ “Ballad Of A Landlord” becomes almost embarrassing. The arrangements offer no sense of surprise (though the audience suckers for every obvious ploy) and solos are only adequate. Other titles are Friction / Acrophilia / But The Shadow Marred The Master Plan / Talking In Tongues / Back Home Again – 45:40, 11/6-7/82.

from: Cadence Magazine # 6, June 1984
© Cadence, released by permission of the publisher

The copyrights remain with the aforesaid sources and/or with the authors.