Schlippenbach Plays “Slow Pieces for Aki”

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SCHLIPPENBACH: Haru No Yuki. Improvisations Nos. I-X. Torso. Tell You. Cleo. Naniga Nandemo. A-Blues. Blues b. I Told You. Dydo. Frage nicht. Zycado / Alexander von Schlippenbach, pno / Intakt CD 346

Avant-garde jazz pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, who has been married to equally avant-garde jazz pianist Aki Takase since the 1970s, presents here a program of slow pieces dedicated to her.

The music herein is not only slow in tempo but also slow in its development. Schlippenbach uses a great deal of space between notes and selects them carefully. The end result is, surprisingly, more tonal than usual for him, and although none of the music is sentimental in nature it’s obvious how much he loves her.

Indeed, it’s almost impossible, without looking at your CD player, to tell where one track ends and the next begins. These pieces all gravitate towards a tonal center of Eb, and although they are different in their progression the recital almost sounds like one continuous piece that evolves from track to track. Which doesn’t mean that the music is monotonous, only that it all has a common thread. There are, however, several tonal detours through bitonality, though never to the point where they are abrasive.

My general feeling about it is that it sounds as if Schlippenbach were sitting at a keyboard, ruminating as he creates, taping the whole session and then editing what he liked into a sort of suite. Because so much of the music depends on space and often on the suspension of long tones. it seems to be dominated by calm although, as in Improvisation II, Schlippenbach occasionally increases or even doubles the tempo. Improvisation III is much more animated than any of the preceding works, while Improvisations V and VII come the closest to jazz rhythms.

The meditative quality of the music is perfect for early morning or late evening listening.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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