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Thursday, April 11, 2024

New Old Luten Trio - Something New, Something Renewed

New Old Luten Trio - Trident Juncture (Euphorium, 2023)

Leipzig based pianist Oliver Schwerdt, along with Berlin based drummer Christian Lillinger, have been over several years developing a series of recordings based on encounters with legends of the avant-garde. Most recently, the two worked with Japanese saxophonist Akira Sakata in what was named the Great Sakata Project. Prior to this was an intense pairing with the late Peter Brötzmann that resulted in some impressive recordings. The precursor, however, was their wonderful and uncanny connection with German woodwindist Ernst Ludwig Petrowsky - the Luten of the New Old Luten Trio.

The music on Trident Juncture, Schwerdt's recent release of the New Old Luten Trio's music, was pulled from their last concert at Leipzig's naTo club in 2016. This date also happens to be the bittersweet occasion of Petrowsky's last appearance before he became too ill to perform.

The album's main track, 'Trident Juncture,' ebbs and flows generously for an hour. Starting with the precise clatter of Lillinger's drums, Schwerdt and Petrowsky join seconds later with abrupt musical statements. A cluster of notes from the piano, a smeared note from the saxophone and they are off and running. The rules of interactions have been long agreed upon by the trio, so there is no need for exploratory playing and testing of the perimeters, rather as the drums begin to splinter the pulse, the energy erupts in colorful chord tones and shredding melodic statements.

The music is hardly one dimensional. Contrasting with the fierce, free interactions are moments of reflective playing. For example, around 10-minutes in, the piano has been swapped out for some 'small instruments' out and Petrowsky engages in an abstract passage with Lillinger, who, while keeping the structure of time, seems to be defying it at the same time. The saxophonist's tone is yearning, it is melodic, but also at times confrontational. This fascinating section lasts nearly fifteen minutes until Schwerdt returns to the piano with a passage that shifts the energy in a whole new direction.

The celebrated saxophonist passed away in 2023 (See: Ernst-Ludwig (“Luten“) Petrowsky (1933 – 2023)), so, any chance to hear a new recording is welcome, and this final set is an exemplary addition to a storied catalog.

New Old Luten Trio - Wild Flower Juice (Euphorium Records, 2008/2023)

On the occasion of Trident Juncture's release, Schwerdt has re-released the trio's very first meeting from 2008, also recorded at Club naTo in Leipzig. At the time of the release, it was given a rather unfortunate name that has been rethought and now appears as Wild Flower Juice on Schwerdt's Euphorium Records Bandcamp site. (Just FYI, Schwerdt has a tendency to use pseudonyms and on this recording is listed as Elan Pauer). 

Made when Petrowsky was 75 and both Lillinger and Schwerdt were still larvea (ok, they weren't all that young, I'm obviously exaggerating for effect), the recording offers clear evidence that age is an unreliable indicator of artistic vigor. Petrowsky is a fountain of youthful energy, provoking and reacting, sparring with the other two at an infectiously creative level. From the opening statement of 'Vitalisierende Gesichtscreme' (Vitalizing Face Cream) to the closing moments of 'Wild Flower Juice' there is a freshness and vitality to Petrowsky's playing and a palpable rapport between him and the younger players.

Simply put, Trident Juncture and Wild Flower Juice are two wonderful recordings that bookend the excellent New Old Luten Project series, which featured Schwerdt, Lillinger and Petrowsky in trio, quintet and septet formations.