Alexander Schlippenbach/Carlos Bechegas

Open Speech

Forward Records, Portugal - CD

In conversation with modern composer Tim Hodgkinson some time back, he was of the opinion that recorded improvised music isn't the greatest experience; you don't have access to the atmosphere surrounding the performance space, the size of the stage, the technical problems, etc. In other words, the art exists outside its context. Although, according to Mr. Hodgkinson, in the case of the late Coltrane or Ayler, artists we have no chance of catching live, it's preferable to never hearing them at all. I can see the logic: an artist wants one to get the whole experience, take it in warts and all so one can make an accurate judgement.

So maybe my evaluation here is off. I certainly hope so, because Bechegas, an estimable flautist, and Schlippenbach, a formidable free player on the piano, spend a lot of time here not jelling, searching for the right combination of sounds and/or dropping what sound like cues.

These largely free improvs (five of them ranging between nine and 15 minutes) were recorded live at the 2003 Jazz a Luz Festival in France. They are occasionally arresting, now and again disjointed, and suffer from these ballooning silences that Keith Jarrett knows how to navigate,but apparently not these two on this particular evening. That's a terrible shame because Schippenbach's technique is elastic, witty and serialist; in "Speech I" he clouds a set of the piano's lower keys so it almost sounds like a synthesizer at one point. And Bechegas favorably recalls Rahsaan Roland Kirk in his whistling and speechifying especially in "Speech II." But it simply does not appear to hold together. The cumulative effect is as if a larger number of musicians actually performed, but the other artists were wiped off to make this CD. Not always, of course; these guys are simply too talented. In the opening of "Speech V" Schlippenbach takes a traditionalist, 'shattered baroque' motif and upon Bechegas' entry they dialogue flawlessly. No rhythm section played here, but one wasn't needed. The two duel, pas de deux and imitate one another's sallies with variations. I just wish the first four improvs had the same idiomatic logic.

Again, I wasn't there and only have the music to review.

My idea of 'idiomatic logic' can't possibly be Bechegas' and Schlippenbach's. That's not really a fair situation. But what CD review is? I can recommend this CD to anybody who knows of these two artists already, or if you're a fan of audio verite. But anybody else, I don't know.

by Kenneth .Egbert

New Sounds - September 2004

Jazz Now Interactive September 2004 Vol 14 No. 5 - Table of Contents