Alexander von Schlippenbach / Rudi Mahall - So Far

Alexander von Schlippenbach: piano
Rudi Mahall: bass clarinet, clarinet

1 all Jazz is free (7:32)
2 barrel (3:40)
3 knockemstiff can can (5:34)
4 chase (3:46)
5 boiling desire (4:20)
6 folk ingrediants (2:84)
7 all in (8:54)
8 straight ahead (4:21)
9 side stroke (1:40)
10 the trap (2:44)
11 apostrophy (4:15)

recorded 7/31/2017
recorded/mixed/mastered by Christian Betz
cover design by Karl Mahall
produced by Mike Panico
all music by Schlippenbach/Mahall GEMA
frontcover photos by Kazue Yokoi, Thomas Hohlbein
executive producers: Kevin Reilly, Christina & Eric Stern

“All jazz is free”: The origin of this statement - self evident or provocative, depending on one’s point of view - has proved very resistant to research thus far. The internet throws up many references to the phrase being used as a title for a solo piano piece by Alex von Schlippenbach.  This gets us nowhere since Alex has for a good while -  and mistakenly - attributed the assertion to me.  I, in turn, am fairly sure that I read it in one of the interviews in Art Taylor’s “Notes and Tones” but, not owning the book myself, I asked Paul Lytton to track it down in his copy.  So far no luck.

Thinking about the ways in which the statement can be interpreted and making the assumption that it was coined by a player of theme and variations changes based music, working backwards in time we come to the descriptor “Time, no Changes” - which can be used equally well for the music of the classic Ornette Coleman Quartet or to the Miles Davis Quintet with WS, HH, RC and TW, in which tempo is maintained, accent patterns and phrasing  relate to the tempo, but note choice is open to the needs of a line in development. So called modal jazz is often clearly a species of “Time, no Changes”.

Classic playing with fixed choruses over changes has nevertheless the freedom to re-harmonise, to play chromatic extensions of the basic chord types; chord names themselves will have implications and freedoms in scale choice (Lydian concept etc)... Steve Coleman’s eloquent writing makes the case for the rhythmic constructions of bebop as being more significant stylistic markers than its harmonic language - note choice - citing Art Tatum, Louis Armstrong playing flat 9ths and so on. 

“No Time, No Changes”, perhaps the final frontier, was  ushered in by the Taylor/ Lyons/ Murray and Giuffre/Bley/Swallow trios in the early 60s of the 20th century.  Earlier composer Arnold S. had said something to the effect that “atonal” was a nonsense term meaning simply no tone (pitch). By the same token, “No Time, No Changes” should be understood as a shorthand expression to describe playing without pre-given structuring devices in advance of the moment of performance, leading to an open field of variations on variations.

Having established that given this historical perspective “All Jazz is - and always has been - Free”, we are left with just the need to define what “jazz” is! Where exactly does this brief summary of evolutionary trends lead us in formulating such a definition?

AvS has retained an affection for the “j-word”, insisting that there remains some however hard to define attitude which distinguishes his approach from the totally open improvisation often associated with other European developments - reaching perhaps a definitional “terminus of the absurd”  with negation of all nameable qualities in the notion of the “non idiomatic”. Listening to the music of Schlippenbach and Mahall there is clear use of all the aforementioned structuring devices and methods.  Fragments of Monk and Dolphy come to the foreground and the melt back into in a stream of consciousness which privileges the last vestiges of the jazz tradition: a personal sound - each player being clearly a recognisable individual - and an urgency to forward momentum.

If “All Jazz is Free” it must be conceded that all freedom is relative. The discussion of the difference between “Relative” and “Absolute” must be left for another occasion.

~ Evan Parker October 2017

Release date - March 30, 2018

Release number: RPR1067