The pianist alone in the studio. That is the counterpole to von
Schlippenbach's work with the Globe Unity Orchestra; at the same time, it is also an orchestral challenge in the form of the keyboard, hammers, and strings of the piano. He prepared four twelve-tone compositions and a few ideas for pieces, including a few brilliant themes by Monk or Dolphy. What's left is the freedom of going it alone and losing oneself in oneself, motivated by a life's work in motion … With tremendous joy in playing, Alexander von Schlippenbach returns to his foundation and impetus: to jazz.»
As he nears his 70s, the great German pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach has been in a reflective mood. But reflective for Schlippenbach doesn't mean nostalgic, and while these new offerings may draw some inspiration or conceptual rooting from the pianist's formative years, they're still unrelentingly forward-looking.
Although packaged separately, the stunning solo piano recital collected on the two volumes of Twelve Tone Tales were designed to be heard as a whole. The pianist embraced atonality more than four decades ago, knocking down potential strictures for the wide open explorations of Globe Unity. But these new solo recordings represent the first time Schlippenbach has worked exclusively with 12-tone rows, a key concept he studied decades ago with Bernd Alois Zimmerman, a multifarious composer from Cologne, Germany, who was heavily influenced by Schoenberg. The liner notes suggest that despite years of practice, only recently has Schlippenbach been able to access this system in his improvising.
Schlippenbach isn't rewriting Schoenberg here. While the first volume includes a Zimmerman piece and the second volume a few radical rehannonizations of some jazz standards, including Thelonious Monk's "Trinkle Tinkle," most of the material is original, rigorously threading 12-tone improvisations within the compositions, which structurally inhibit that freedom of movement. The core of the two albums is the four-part title track, where Schlippenbach puts his compositional cell through the ringer. Bert Noglik's notes for the second volume suggest that this project tries to summarize the pianist's career, and while that's a tafl order, the recordings contain many of the themes and approaches he's been tackling since the mid '60s.
Peter Margasak, Down Beat, USA, April 2007
released January 1, 2006
Alexander von Schlippenbach: Piano
All Compositions by Alexander von Schlippenbach (GEMA), except “Les”, “Something Sweet, Something Tender”, “Out There” by Eric Dolphy, “All The Things You Are” by Jerome Kern and “Trinkle Tinkle” by Thelonious Monk. Recorded June 14 – 16, 2005 at SWR-Studio Baden-Baden by Alfred Habelitz, Ute Hesse, Norbert Vossen | Liner notes: Bert Noglik. Photo: Kai von Rabenau. Cover art & Graphic design: Jonas Schoder | Recording produced by Reinhard Kager/SWR and Intakt Records. Published and copyright by Intakt Records. Executive production: Patrik Landolt