Edition of 300. Featuring Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase both on piano, recorded at Cafe Amores in Yamaguchi. Japan in August of 1995. Although Ms. Takase and Mr. Schlippenbach have been married for many years (she moved to Berlin in 1987), it seems as if their music collaborations began in the early 1990’s. There are some half dozen or so discs of duos (1993, ’94 & 2014), a trio/quartet (from 2005), the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (BCJO) (1993 & 1996), collaborations with Sven Ake Johannson and more recently a great tribute to Eric Dolphy (12 piece unit on Intakt from 2014). This, their third piano duo disc, was recorded in 1995 in Japan. What is most interesting about this CD/set is who they cover: Frank Zappa, Charles Mingus, two Thelonious Monk’s, an old standard (“Lulu’s Back in Town”, as well as a few originals. Starting with “Jackhammer” which was written by Mr. Schlippenbach and appears on BCJO ‘Live in Japan’ release. It is a solo feature for Schlippenbach and it is a powerful intro with some intense, steamrolling piano, which goes through a variety of sections. For the second piece, “Na na na its das der Weg”, both pianists are sitting at one piano with Alex in the lower register and Aki in the higher one. I like the way they exchange lines and bounce ideas back and forth, building, crisscrossing, the tempo increasing to a colossal stream and then back to minimal ripples. I am not so sure why the duo covered a later period Zappa song, “You are What You Is”, but it is a lot of fun and does have a most memorable somewhat goofy melody which stops before it ends. One of the highlights here a medley of Charles Mingus and Duke Ellington themes in which both pianist insert unexpected lines amongst the more recognizable melodies, like “Boogie Stop Shuffle”. Both Ms. Takase and Mr. Schlippenbach have covered songs by Mingus with their own bands. Here they take, “Misterioso”, “Evidence” and “Skippy”, alter them in odd ways, with several overlapping themes, twisting them in unexpected ways. The last piece, “The Morlocks”, is more experimental with the couple put various utensils inside the piano, rubbing the strings and coaxing out some strange sounds. The piece is long, very intense and does a fine job of creating a more mysterious soundscape which both disorienting and ultimately fascinating. Bravo to both pianists! Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
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