With a cover like that, at least you know you're dealing w/ a free-improv group w/ a sense of humour, one of the traits which sets the Schlippenbach Trio ahead of the pack. I had a major thing for this lot back at the dawn of the '00s when I considered myself Mr. Free Jazz, and one of the reasons I fell for these guys so hard was because of my seeming ignorance of their importance in the history of European free jazz and improvisation. It had to be corrected. Let me explain... It's the year 2000 and I'm working at Missing Link. I'm the guy in charge of the jazz section (yes, such responsibilities; my mother was so proud), and I feel it is my absolute right and responsibility to fob off any and every sundry piece of "fire music" we carry to every punk rock/hardcore/indie putz who walks in the door. "You buying a copy of Slip It In? Well, if you like Ginn's guitar work on that album, you'll love this expensive Japanese James "Blood" Ulmer reissue we have, not to mention these Ivo Perelman CDs on Leo, as well as the entire Ganelin Trio and David S. Ware catalogue we have sitting around...". God knows I tried, damnit, I tried. At one point a bespectacled fellow w/ a ponytail(!) came in - a gentleman I recognised as a regular customer prone to blowing wads of cash on all matters of avant platter - and he asked me if I had any discs by Alexander Von Schlippenbach and his infamous trio. "Alexander Von what?", I squinted back. He repeated the question. I searched through the bags and noticed, amongst all the FMP CDs we were getting in, there were actually a few discs by him, including this one, Swinging The Bim, an expensive double CD I didn't even know we stocked. I sold it, he left, and I felt slighted. I mean, I should know these things; after all, I'm a professional. I borrowed a couple of the Trio's CDs that night from work, Googled his name and did my studies. Hmmm...German fellow, family lineage involves possible European royalty, hardcore avant pianist since the '60s when he formed the Globy Unity Orchestra, been playing w/ famed UK jazz/improv dudes, reedsman Evan Parker and percussionist Paul Lytton since 1970 as the Trio, etc.
Most of all, the music hit home, and as one learns in retail: the customer was truly right in this instance. The Schlippenbach Trio were well worth searching out, and I soon learned that the man's discography, which was not only extensively documented on the FMP label, but was also starting to be unearthed and issued on the Atavistic imprint out of Chicago, was a can of worms I was likely to blow a pretty penny on. The exhaustive double live set from 2000, Swinging The Bim (FMP), remains my favourite. I've since become bored w/ what passes for most non-swinging Euro-derived avant-garde improvised music - much of which sounds like an intellectual experiment as opposed to music I'd really want to sit down and listen to - though the Schlippenbach Trio possess a telepathy between each player and sees three men perfectly playing off each other's musical capabilities. Their "songs" are usually of extreme length and build up in pace and intensity, not unlike our own Necks, and seemingly possess a sense of purpose most improvised music lacks. You can stick this long live set on, kick back and enjoy the ride. No piddling around here, kid-o, the Schlippenbach Trio always play it like they mean it, and some eight years later, I'm glad to say that that customer really set me on a course for knowledge and enightenment of which I was otherwise wholly ignorant of.
Now here's some other shit flyin' high in this household...
1) DIRTY THREE - Whatever You Love, You Are CD (Anchor & Hope/2000)
A 21st-century D3 platter which previously escaped my glares, and having now managed to score every single one of their albums in just the last month - see entry below for the full details of the D3 revival happening in the Lang household - I will state that this one is their absolute best release, perfectly encapsulating all the tension/release, improvisation, soaring melodies, epic grandeur and all that other bulltwang music critics throw around when speaking of the band... (draws breath) in one single collection of songs. You need it.
2) ALI FARKA TOURE - Radio Mali CD (World Circuit/Nonesuch)
Been hooked on this guy's work of late, a trend perhaps brought on by a workmate's love of African music and my education of said music, a learning process which I've undertaken at a steady rate the last 12 months. This collection puts together Toure's best tracks from his early albums from the '70s/'80s, and his hypnotic bluesy ragas - certainly not unlike the best boogie chillin' tracks by John Lee Hooker and Junior Kimbrough - stir hearts and loins.
3) VARIOUS ARTISTS - Country & West Coast: The Birth Of Country Rock CD (Big Beat/Ace/2006)
Got this one off a friend who is the walking encyclopedia of early American country rock in the southern hemisphere. I mean, someone must wear such a crown, and he is that man. Recording times, sidemen, original catalogue numbers, subsequent drug problems: you wanna know it, you ask the man. This ace comp' puts together the absolute best pre-Eagles country-rock tracks you'll hear from the likes of the Byrds, Flying Burrito Bros. (and every other Byrds spin-off you can imagine), Everly Brothers, Michael Nesmith, etc., and wraps it up in an educational booklet which tells the story of country rock before it was corrupted in a sea of cocaine, waaay-too-successful careers and FM-radio fodder. Call me a fuggin' hippie, but I can dig this stuff but good.
4) VARIOUS ARTISTS - Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds and Nigerian Blues 1970-'76 2CD (Soundway/2008)
This one deserves its own entry, and probably will in subsequent weeks. A releases of such dedication in sounds, presentation and information, it staggers and boggles the mind. This one shoulda been on Revenant wrapped up in an embossed leather suitcase. You get Afro-funk, blues, Rhumba, jazz and everything in between. Early days yet, but I see as this as possibly being the best archival release of '08. Get it and tell me I'm wrong.
5) BOY DIRT CAR - Spoken Answer To A Silent Question CD (Aftermusic/2008)
The 'Car are back! Yep, Darren Brown, Die Kreuzen's Dan and Keith and all the gang. All that's missing is Eric Lunde. I've got a major soft spot for this midwestern aggro industrial-punker outfit who've been banging tins since '82 - you probably already guessed that - and this one's a real goodie! Damn, I should've released the dang thing myself. Four tracks, not so much industrial clang 'n' blang, but more on the drone side of things. Some of this sounds like beatnik jazz mutterings, some of it sounds like a Terry Riley piece from '65, and some of it hovers the orbit of 'Floyd ca. '69. You will be surprised. A fuggin' inspiration, truly. Nice package, too.