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Alexander Von Schlippenbach

                                                    Broomriding  (PSI)



       By Anne Farnsworth


          The Free Jazz movement arose in the rebellious ‘60’s, a revolt against the strictures of music in general and bop in particular.  About the same time, Gunther Schuller was formulating the concept of the Third Stream – jazz improvisation embedded in traditional European compositional form and orchestral instrumentation.

         German pianist and composer Alexander Von Schlippenbach melds these two genres in his work. Classically trained, he has been a longtime collaborator with the Berlin Philharmonic in the form of his Globe Unity Orchestra, at the same time working in smaller trio and quartet settings.

          His latest CD, Broomriding, features Schlippenbach’s piano with his long-time collaborator Paul Lovens on drums, Rudi Mahall, clarinet, and Tristan Honsinger on cello. Original compositions by Schlippenbach and Honsinger are supplemented by arrangements of two Eric Dolphy standards.

         The pieces are performed with an almost desperate dynamism, as if the music cops were about to come crashing through the soundstage door. They’re a chamber group after the audience has gone home, loosening their bowties and tossing the score aside to explore the outer limits of their instruments.

     Bits of spoken word and Honsinger’s guttural accompaniment to his cello create the immediacy of a live performance.  Swirling energy and a great sense of playfulness pour out of their work - Dolpy’s “Straight Up And Down” has the manic feel of a Fellini circus band on acid.

     The title cut, written by Schlippenbach, builds from an insistent whisper to a swarming frenzy.  One can envision the skies darkening with a thousand black clad sorcerers. A few selections, Honsinger’s Poetics for example, utilize something approaching a swing feel and harmonic changes but seemed turned around, as if a conventional jazz approach was their personal foray into experimentation.

     Broomriding isn’t an easy listen. As with late 20th century classical music and free jazz, it takes a few passes before the form in all the formlessness begins to take shape.  Schlippenbach has created an aural landscape that is stark yet inviting, tempering his postmodern abstractions with the warmth of real instruments played with emotion, heart and a loving nod to tradition.  

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