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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Schweizer, Anderson, Drake - Live Willisau & Taktlos (Intakt, 2007) ****

Ah, what a joy! Swiss free jazz pianist Irene Schweizer is joined by Chicagoans Fred Anderson on sax and Hamid Drake on drums. The latter two of course have been performing together for many years and are also close friends, both coming from the same town in Louisiana. Schweizer has been a musical adventurer since the late 60s, pushing the boundaries of jazz and even free jazz, integrating everything from classical to Indian and African music, and she is especially renowned for her duos with drummers (Andrew Cyrille, Pierre Favre, Han Bennink, Louis Moholo, Mani Neumeier). This album starts with a duo with Hamid Drake, taking a very intensive and rhythmic attack from the very start, inviting the drummer in, who takes up the challenge and with great success. Hamid Drake's sense of music and rhythm, combined with creativity and speed of reaction (or anticipation?), makes him one of the best drummers of the free jazz scene. After a while Schweizer loosens up a bit, changing the piece into something more lyrical, enthusiastic, with even little moments of fun thrown in once in while : a little melodic sidestep, a little dancing figure, and where is Drake - for sure, he is part of it, as if he's reading the notes from a sheet of paper, encouraging Schweizer to do more. Great stuff! After this first take, which was recorded at the Taktlos festival in 1998, comes the trio, with Anderson on sax, and recorded at the Willisau festival in 2004. This is splendor continued. Schweizer's playing is not easy, and in terms of musical sensitivity, phrasing and color in another area than Anderson, who is more directly emotional, bluesy - but the two mix well, moving towards one another without relinquishing their style. And agile Drake is the glue that holds them together. And they give each other room as well, Drake and Anderson play a great duet in the middle of the lengthy second track, but so do Drake and Schweizer on the same track, integrating them into trio interplay and moving it to an even higher level. The third track starts with Drake's frame drum, and lines from Anderson that I remember from another album (but which one?), but Schweizer joins and with her propulsive piano hammering leads it into other territory, first abstract, but then picking up Anderson's base line with the left hand and moving it with the right into an African melody. There's nothing as good as hearing three great musicians having fun playing together, and with the audience enjoying it to the full. So will you, I hope.

Below you can watch the trio, after a 2 minute piano intro by Schweizer, when the two Chicagoans join the piece "Willisau" (the clip is edited).