Click here to [close]

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Irene Schweizer and Intakt Records - a Celebration

Irene Schweizer, in concert in 2015. Photo by Peter Gannushkin.

By Paul Acquaro

This year the Swiss pianist Irene Schweizer celebrated her 80th birthday.  The writers at the Free Jazz Blog have covered the influential pianist's work over the years and we thought it would be an appropriate celebration of her milestone year by reviewing not only her most recent release on the Intakt label, Celebration, a duo with Chicago percussionist Hamid Drake, but also survey some of the recent releases from the label, which is closely associated with Schweizer.

Intakt, based in Zürich, Switzerland, was founded in 1986, and is still run, by Patrik Landolt. The label was initially begun in order to feature the work of Schweizer, who although had a number of solo and collaborative recordings on the German labels FMP and SABA, as well as Harry Miller's Ogun, had a backlog of work that she was ready to release. In fact, according to a profile by arts critic Kurt Gottschalk, of the first 10 releases from the label, 8 featured the pianist.

Intakt continues to this day with an impressive release schedule. In fact, as we assembled this short tribute with reviews from 2021, another new set of releases came out (a de facto to be continued). Additionally, aside from a focus on developing artists and groups, another feature of the label is that its releases are typically complete with extensive liner notes (pure treasure for us music obsessives!). The liner notes are even included with full album downloads from their robust Bandcamp store.

Anyway, we hope you enjoy the set of reviews that will post over the next few days. Today we begin with a review of Celebration by Schweizer and Drake written by Nick Ostrum.

Already covered this year from Intakt are:


Captain Hate said...

Speaking of excellent liners, this interview with Schweizer on the rerelease of Hexensabbat & Wilde Senoritas got my attention as a statement of an artist very comfortable in her skin:

How did you come to solo playing in the mid-seventies?

After the John Tchicai-Irène Schweizer Quartet performed in 1975 at the Willisau Jazz Festival, Niklaus Troxler asked me to the next festival in 1976 as a soloist. At first, I didn't want to appear as a soloist. I had never played solo. But I let myself be talked into it. The concert was a great success. A few months later, Jost Gebers invited me to do another solo concert at the Total Music Meeting in Berlin.

Your first solo album, titled «Wilde Señoritas«, documents this Berlin concert. Two pieces, the title piece «Wild Senoritas» and «Saitengebilde» [String Structure] are on the record. It's remarkable and astonishing that essential traits of Irène Schweizer's solo playing can already be heard: free chains of association; phrasing typical of jazz; repetitive, changing figures; linear kinds of playing; inside-piano playing; few clusters. How do you hear this recording today?

There is always the danger that one wants to consider older recordings as something unfinished, immature, and perhaps something not so very precise. When I listened again to the recording before this conversation, I was astonished at how I was able to very precisely get some things in a nutshell, and how close to me this music is. I also heard some musical patterns, themes, and quotes that I still touch on today - although in a completely different way. I was also surprised at how much I was playing on the strings then. At the time, I was fascinated with exploring the possibilities of inside-piano playing, and ignited fireworks of sound.