Friday, 25 January 2008

Aki Takase and Rudi Mahall...

After the Max Nagl posting, I've been on a bit of a German New Jazz retro-trip this week. Of course Nagl is not German, and his Viennese chamber-jazz mannerisms are all a long way from the FMP sound, but a loose association is probably enough. Manfred Schoof, Hans Koller, Bernd Konrad, Peter Brötzmann, Günter Sommer, and even the sometimes barely musical flatulence of the great Albert Mangelsdorff have all been listened to recently. Alexander von Schlippenbach is another name I cold reel off, but let's face it, that isn't a very easy name to reel off without a fair bit of practice.

Schlippenbach comes to Tyneside in March as part of a quartet led by AMM drummer Eddie Prévost. No prizes for guessing I'll be there, and a bit like the Keith Tippett gig last Autumn, I'm already on a bit of a mental countdown waiting for it to happen.

As it happens I've just finished reviewing a CD by Brötz, but as it hasn't yet been published by the magazine it would be pretty bad etiquette to post it here now. We'll just have to settle for a lukewarm review of an old CD by Rudi Mahall and Aki Takase. There's a Berlin connection, and also a Schlipppenbach connection. I'll see what I can do to keep the theme going...

The Dessert
LEO (LR 370)

Head In, Head Out; Apple Cake; With Egg; Panna Cotta; Ear In, Ear Out; Purity And Sweetness; Another Sausage Roll; Creme Au Caramel; Granatapfelsirup; Voskresenie; Raskaz; Black Puddding 2; Pirodjok; Anekdots 1 to 4.

Rudi Mahall (bcl, cbcl); Aki Takase (p).
Recorded December 2002.

Takase and Mahall belong to that faction of the Berlin free music community that is rooted in jazz rather than non-idiomatic improvisation. An earlier outing by the duo for Enja Records paid homage to Eric Dolphy, whilst this offering consolidates and refines their close rapport as they pay homage to, the dessert!

Admiring Ellington and Monk in particular, Takase remains open to external influences such as serialism and the aforementioned free improvisation scene. Rather like her partner Alexander von Schlippenbach, her broad sweeps can mistakenly lead inattentive listeners to mark her as an acolyte of Cecil Taylor (who belongs to an altogether more distant orbit). Mahall extends Dolphy’s legacy with a harsh an abrasive sound that is now unmistakably his own, pushing the music to further extremes than Takase’s recorded collaboration with David Murray.

Most of the desserts dished up here are decidedly bittersweet - appealingly playful melodies violently writhed apart in a relentless forward surge. ‘Panna Cotta’ is one of the few desserts they linger to savour, the others being given something of a fast taste treatment. Interestingly, the four free-improvisations (or ‘Anekdots’) at the end of this disc cohere in a manner rarely found in the genre, perhaps the result of the harmonic and composerly basis of the duo’s approach to music making.

A good duo is always the most intimate form of musical dialogue, and Takase-Mahall move convincingly from passages of chamber-esque poise into realms of pointillistic violence without ever losing their connecting thread, My big reservation is that the material is too unvariegated, initial delight soon giving way to feelings of nauseous indigestion if it’s all listened to in one sitting. A rich dessert best consumed in small portions, but none the worse for that.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, June 2003)

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