Educated at avantgarde classical music, German pianist
Alexander Von Schlippenbach (1938)
entered the fray of free-jazz via Gunther Hampel's and Manfred Schoof's quintets.
He formed the Globe Unity Orchestra in 1966,
a big band that bridged the techniques of free-jazz and the techniques of the classical avantgarde (including the twelve-tone scale).
The orchestra of Globe Unity (december 1966) assembled saxophonist Peter
Broetzmann's trio (bassist Peter Kowald and drummer Sven-Ake Johansson),
trumpeter Manfred Schoof's quintet (Schlippenbach, tenorist Gerd Dudek, bassist
Buschi Niebergall and percussionist Jaki Liebezeit),
plus clarinetist/flutist Gunter Hampel,
saxophonist Willem Breuker,
trumpeter Claude Deron, tuba player Willi Lietzmann, saxophonist Kris Wanders and drummer Mani Neumeier.
The two 20-minute pieces were manifestos of two different kinds of free jazz: Globe Unity was a series of energetic improvised solos grafted onto the very loose structure of Von Schlippenbach's written score, while Sun was an even looser soundscape roamed by discrete percussion instruments, piano and vibraphone.
The fundamental difference between this European kind of free-jazz and Ornette Coleman's (or John Coltrane's) free-jazz was the rhythm: the European rhythm was cold, abstract, a purely sonic element, whereas the USA rhythm was warm, bodily and, ultimately, jazz.
The 34-minute Globe Unity 67 (october 1967), off Globe Unity 67 & 70, documented another loud and lively performance of continental improvisers
(now also including trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff),
whereas the inferior 18-minute Globe Unity 70 (november 1970) has a cast of British improvisers (guitarist Derek Bailey, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, drummer Paul Lovens).
Schlippenbach was also active outside the orchestra.
The Living Music (april 1969) was recorded the same
day by the same musicians who recorded Peter Broetzman's Nipples,
but the lengthy The Living Music and Tower implemented a totally
different view of group improvisation, one that was subtle instead of savage.
The trio with saxophonist Evan Parker and drummer Paul Lovens of
Pakistani Pomade (november 1972)
expanded to a quartet with the addition of Kowald and for a while became the pianist's main artistic avenue;
Three Nails Left (february 1975), with the 23-minute Range,
the live Hunting the Snake (september 1975), released only in 2000,
and the five-movement Hidden Peak (january 1977).
First Recordings (april 1972) documents the Trio formed with Evan Parker (tenor and soprano saxes) and Paul Lovens (drums).
During the 1970s, e.g. on Live in Wuppertal (march 1973), the Globe Unity Orchestra briefly flirted with a more structured song-oriented format, but then returned to its free-form grandeur with a vengeance.
Next to the triad of Von Schlippenbach, Broetzmann and Schoof, Hamburg '74 (november 1974) featured Dutch drummer Han Bennink and a conspicuous British contingent (Bailey, Lovens, Wheeler, saxophonist Evan Parker, trombonist Paul Rutherford). Both Hamburg '74 and Contrast and Synthesis added a choir to the collective chaos.
The Globe Unity Special of Evidence (march 1975) and Into the Valley (march 1975), later collected as Rumbling, was, instead, merely a nonet of four Germans (Schlippenbach, Dudek, Mangelsdorff, Kowald), four Britons (Wheeler, Parker, Lovens, Rutherford) and American soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, dominated by Parker's compositions Into the Valley and Of Dogs, Dreams, and Death.
Pearls (november 1975) [Note: the date is misprinted on the album's cover as 1977, Schlippenbach claims the correct year is 1975, I suspect it was 1976 because it was the tenth anniversary concert of the band], on the other hand, boasted the Globe Unity Orchestra at its international zenith: three trumpeters (Schoof, Wheeler, Enrico Rava), five saxophonists (Broetzmann, Dudek, Parker, Anthony Braxton, Ruediger Carl), three trombones (Guenter Christmann, Mangelsdorff, Rutherford), a bass clarinet (Michel Pilz), a pianist (Schlippenbach), two bassists (Kowald and Niebergall) and a drummer (Lovens).
It contains a 25-minute version of Evan Parker's Every Single One Of Us Is A Pearl.
Peter Kowald engineered the two pieces of Jahrmarkt (june 1976): the chamber free jazz explorations of Jahrmarkt and the colossal fanfare of Local Fair for jazz ensemble, Greek bouzouki quartet, 17-piece brass band and 30-piece accordion ensemble.
A slighly revised line-up with the addition of Derek Bailey and cellist Tristan Honsinger, and the notable omission of Anthony Braxton, recorded the four untitled Improvisations (september 1977).
Steve Lacy joined for the six shorter Compositions (january 1979).
Schlippenbach also recorded a
Piano Solo (february 1977), notably Onliest,
that had been preceded by the more
conventional piano recital Payan (february 1972),
and several duets with drummer/vocalist Sven-Ake Johansson, such as
Kung Bore (november 1977).
Up And Down The Lion - Revised (september 1979 - Olof Bright, 2010)
documents a trio with Peter
Brötzmann (on saxes), Alexander
Von Schlippenbach (on piano) and Sven-Åke Johansson (on drums).
After the live Detto Fra Di Noi (june 1981) by the Schlippenbach-Parker-Lovens trio,
they reformed the quartet with Alan Silva on bass and recorded
the double-LP Das Hohe Lied (november 1981), with the 43-minute
Let This Mouth Shower Kisses On You, and
Anticlockwise (september 1982).
Versuch der Rekonstruktion einer Vergangenen Zeit (august 1990) was
recorded by a different quartet.
The triple-disc Stockholm Connection (Umlaut, 2015) collects collaborations with tenorist Swedens Bengt "Frippe" Nordstrom and accordionist and drummer Sven-Ake Johansson, notably Rotationer For Stor Orkester (march 1970), the 25-minute Rutig (november 1977), and the 26-minute Eksjo (march 1982).
The Globe Unity Orchestra continued to exist, as documented on
Intergalactic Blow (june 1982),
20th anniversary (november 1986),
Globe Unity 2002 (january 2002).
The Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra
(four trumpets, four trombones, six saxophones, piano, bass and drums)
was built around the trio, but played
more casual and organized music, at last sounding like a jazz big-band.
Schlippenbach mainly conducted the music on
Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (may 1989), that contained
Kenny Wheeler's 22-minute Ana and Misha Mengelberg's 19-minute Reef Und Kneebus,
The Morlocks (july 1993), with the 16-minute The Morlocks,
and Live In Japan (july 1996).
Schlippenbach's trio, that had last recorded
on Elf Bagatellen (may 1990) and the live Physics (june 1991),
continued to stand up to its reputation on the
live Complete Combustion (april 1998) and the live
double-CD Swinging the BIM (november 1998), as well as on
2X3=5 (august 1999), a live collaboration between the trio and bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton, although that hyper-lengthy improvisations
were often redundant.
Broomriding (september 2003) was a trio with
bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall and cellist Tristan Honsinger.
Vesuvius (october 2004) was a quartet with
Paul Dunmall, Paul Rogers and Tony Bianco.
40 Years (november 2006) celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Globe
Unity Orchestra with veterans Schlippenbach, Wheeler, Schoof, Doerner, Evan Parker, George Lewis, Rutherford, Jeb Bishop, Lovens and Lytton, as well as
newcomers Jean-Luc Capozzo on trumpet,
Johannes Bauer on trombone, and Rudi Mahall, Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky and Gerd Dudek on reeds.
Schlippenbach led a
trio with tenorist Evan Parker and drummer Paul Lovens
on Gold Is Where You Find It (june 2007).
Friulian Sketches (april 2008) was a trio
with Daniel D'Agaro on clarinet and Tristan Honsinger on cello.
Blackheath (march 2008) contains three live pieces: a piano solo, a drum solo by Eddie Prevost and a duet with Prevost.
Fur Paul Klee (december 2007) featured Sven-Ake Johansson (drums), Aki Takase (piano), Alexander von Schlippenbach (celesta), Axel Dorner (trumpet), Werner Dafeldecker (bass) and Paul Lovens (percussion).
Und Jetzt Die Sportschau (For Evan Parker) (april 1975)
featured Manfred Schoof and Kenny Wheeler (trumpets), Peter Brotzmann, Evan Parker and
Gerd Dudek (tenor saxes), Michael Pilz (bass clarine), Gunter
Christmann, Albert Mangelsdorff and Paul Rutherford (trombones),
Peter Kowald (tuba), Buschi Niebergall (double bass), Paul
Lovens (percussion), Hans Reichel (guitar), Schlippenbach and
Rudiger Carl (accordions).
Kitchen Orchestra With Alexander Von Schlippenbach (july 2011)
documents a collaboration with
Norwegian ensemble Kitchen Orchestra
(a vocalist, two
trumpets, three saxes, two trombones, accordion, electronics, guitar and
The Schlippenbach Trio, with Evan Parker (saxes) and Paul Lovens (drums), returned on Features (december 2013).
The Schlippenbach Trio
also scored the film But The Word Dog Doesn't Bark (2007-2010).
The extended live improvisations Intricacies (february 2014) documents a quintet with Paul Hubweber (trombone), Frank Paul Schubert (alto & soprano saxes), Clayton Thomas (bass) and Willi Kellers (drums).
The triple-disc 3 Nights At Cafe Oto (may 2013) documents lengthy live performances by Evan Parker (tenor sax), John Edwards (double bass), Eddie Prevost (drums), Christof Thewes (trombone) and Alexander Von Schlippenbach (piano).
Lok 03 (august 2004) featured a trio with Aki Takase on piano and Illvibe on turntables. Signals (Trost, 2016) featured the same trio plus Paul Lovens on drums.
The Alexander Von Schlippenbach Trio, i.e. the pianist with Evan Parker (sax) and Paul Lovens (drums), is captured live on Warsaw Concert (october 2015).
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