REVIEW: Schlippenbach Trio at Cafe Oto

Schlippenbach Trio
L-R: Alexander von  Schlippenbach, Evan Parker
Paul Lovens. Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2015. All Rights Reserved

Schlippenbach Trio
(Cafe Oto, 25th June 2015; second night of 2-day residency. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

It's not easy to pin down exactly what it is that makes this trio so special, but perhaps it is ultimately down to the composure that comes with experience. Alexander von Schlippenbach, Evan Parker and Paul Lovens have played together with intermittent regularity since the beginning of the 70s. Three iron-strong musical personalities, their individual paths have both collided and coalesced in this combination. Parker has noted that the trio can stretch them to breaking point, yet it can also lead to performances of a stunningly uplifting sensitivity, as it was at Cafe Oto.

The trio achieved a finely tuned expressive balance in their journey of rich explorations over two sets, with a light flow and a tight weave enabling each to turn the tentative to the resoundingly affirmative as the initiatives were traded and shared with intuitive equanimity.

The strong sense of continually seeking out the unknown banished any assumptions that a musical liaison of such long-standing might result in a formulaic performance. Monk was never far from von Schlippenbach's side in his scintillating runs and melodic angularity. Parker's range took on multicoloured hues, drifting from bassy resonances to mercurial high-pitched rounds. Yet, maybe it was Lovens who, with his quietly intense focus, held the key to their equilibrium. He pitched in with dynamic assurance mixing artillery precision with metallic, butterfly nuances, nurturing duets, then falling back to allow extended solos to emerge from the fray.

There was hardly any need to exchange glances - the understanding was so deeply ingrained, and when von Schlippenbach's piano took on the trance rhythms and intense tones of Parker's meditative flow the unity was complete. Spiritual nourishment of a very high order.

Alexander von Schlippenbach - piano
Evan Parker - saxophone
Paul Lovens - drums

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