Husband-and-wife pianists Schlippenbach and Takase salute Eric Dolphy | Bleader

Husband-and-wife pianists Schlippenbach and Takase salute Eric Dolphy

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Last week I wrote about the recently issued First Recordings by the Schlippenbach Trio, the peerless free-improvising trio that features drummer Paul Lovens and Evan Parker and is nominally led by pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach. Although he was one of the key figures in the development of a bona fide European jazz aesthetic, that doesn't cancel out Schlippenbach's fluency in the American tradition. Back in 2002 he launched his brilliant Monk's Casino project—joined by the four members of the superb Die Enttäuschung, he performed and recorded every extant tune composed by Thelonious Monk.

Last fall Schlippenbach and his wife and fellow pianist Aki Takase released a recording by another project paying tribute to a great American jazz musician: reedist Eric Dolphy. For So Long, Eric! Homage to Eric Dolphy (Intakt) the couple assembled a fantastic 12-strong band—deployed in numerous configurations ranging from duo to the full complement of musicians—and interpreted nine tunes by Dolphy, who died tragically in 1964 at the age of 36 from undiagnosed diabetes. Most of the personnel is drawn from Berlin's strong jazz- and improvised-music community—including trumpeter Axel Dörner and bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, who is arguably the greatest practitioner of an instrument most commonly associated in the jazz world with Dolphy—but Schlippenbach's called on a pair of veterans with personal connections to the late reedist: Han Bennink and Karl Berger. Dutch drummer Bennink played with Dolphy just a few months before his death—the drummer appears on the classic Last Date, along with pianist Misha Mengelberg. Vibist Karl Berger was leading a trio at a Berlin nightclub in June of 1964, and on opening night Dolphy appeared as a special guest, but with his deteriorated heath he could barely play, let alone stand; he was hospitalized that night and died two days later.

The music on the CD is celebratory, with dynamic, contrapuntal-rich arrangements and fantastic improvisation; the shifting lineups and sharp arrangements add to the flavor. Takase's arrangement of "Serene," for example, is strictly for the horns of Dörner, Mahall, alto saxophonist Henrik Walsdorff, and tenor saxophonist Tobias Delius—they balance a chamber-like intimacy and buoyant swing that are voiced with a lovely, gauzy timbre that conveys a touch of west-coast cool (Dolphy got his start in LA, after all, working in Chico Hamilton's band). Schlippenbach's arrangement of "Out There" opens with a lengthy solo piano passage fueled by a kind of off-kilter, boogie-woogie drive that soon leaps into a fleet postbop quartet, highlighted by some excellent blowing by Walsdorff that's embedded with some of Dolphy's trademark intervallic leaps. The collection concludes with an epic version of "Out to Lunch," with Bennink going head-to-head with drummer Heinrich Köbberling before the full ensemble jumps in, exaggerating the already herky-jerky theme, with a barrage of horns improvising simultaneously in Dolphy's characteristically jagged fashion before pulling back for a string of inspired solos. The rest of the top-flight band includes trombonist Nils Wogram, and bassists Wilbert de Joode and Antonio Borghini. Below you can listen to the project's version of "The Prophet."

Over the last few months bassist Jason Roebke has been organizing solo performances of improvised music followed by discussions with each player at Asado Coffee in Ukrainian Village, but he's stepping his game up in two weeks with a two-day festival featuring some of the city's best musicians. On Friday, February 20, there are sets from guitarist Matthew Schneider, saxophonist Dave Rempis, and vibist Jason Adasiewicz; it begins at 6:30 PM. On Saturday, February 21, there are sets from bass clarinetist Jason Stein, cellist Tomeka Reid, and saxophonist Keefe Jackson; it begins at 4:30 PM.

Today's playlist:

George Faith, To Be a Lover (Hip-O Select/Island)
Fred Hughes/Johnny Sayles, Baby Boy/Man on the Inside (Westside)
Sabine Ercklentz and Andrea Neumann, Lalienation (Herbal International)
John Coltrane, Coltrane (Deluxe Edition) (Impulse)
Blondie, Parallel Lines (Capitol/Chrysalis)

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