Schubert / Schlippenbach/Blume
Relative Pitch Recordings RPR1117

Frank Paul Schubert as, ss
Alexander von Schlippenbach piano
Martin Blume drums, percussion

Recording track list
1. Merge 47:30
2 Forgin the Work 06:47
Total Time: 54:17

Recorded April 28, 2019 at Ruhr Jazz Festival, Kunstmuseum Bochum

Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Stefan Deistler

Executive Producers, Matt Vernon and Kevin Reilly

Cover Artworg, SPL@T

"The trio is comprised of legend and the doyen of improvised music and free jazz: the pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach. The term "accompaniment" is rather unsuitable for the trio: Frank Paul Schubert on alto and soprano saxophone and Martin Blume on drums, act as equal partners. All trio members at ear level are the source of ideas and impulses, their interplay is a subtle trialogue, for successful listening and picking up on musical elements that are woven into a coherent spontaneous opus."-Relative Pitch Records

«Forge» is a meeting between three heavyweights of the German free-improv scene. Pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, 82 years old, belongs to the legendary, pioneer generation of free improvisers in Europe. Sax player Frank Paul Schubert and drummer Martin Blume are a generation younger. Schubert and von Schlippenbach recorded before («Red Dhal Sextet», FMR, 2013, «Intricacies», NoBusiness, 2015) and recently Schubert worked together with Blume («Spindrift», Leo, 2020). This trio has performed sporadically in recent years, before «Forge» was recorded live at the Kunstmuseum during the Ruhr Jazz Festival, Bochum, in April 2019, and continues to perform today.

The performance begins with the 48-minutes of «Merge» where von Schlippenbach, Schubert, and Blume keep exchanging ideas in an urgent, powerful, and totally democratic manner. The music flows in a strong, free-associative stream, and each gesture of von Schlippenbach, Schubert, and Blume is immediately deconstructed, reconstructed, and morphed into something else before it is abandoned as the trio searches the next challenge. Later, von Schlippenbach introduces a lyrical vein spiced with brief quotes from Thelonius Monk songbook and changes the course of the improvisation to a looser and more subtle one, triggering imaginative comments from Schubert and Blume, both are also well-versed in Monk work, but opt for a tighter and faster rhythmic dialog. Again, von Schlippenbach introduces a gentle, melodic theme and instantly Schubert and Blume turn the interplay into a sparse, chamber one, soon to be transformed into a dense and explosive mode, led by Schubert who employs circular breathing techniques. Von Schlippenbach takes the lead once more and sets an emotional atmosphere that relies on Monk-ish fragments and concludes this stormy improvisation.

The second, shorter «forgin the Work» relies more on Monk-ish quotes but incorporates these fragmented, cyclical quotes into the fast-shifting and free-associative interplay of Schlippenbach, Schubert, and Blume. This trio titled one of its earlier performances as «Inner and Outer Spaces». This title captures faithfully its aesthetics. Paying homage to the inner, sacred legacy of jazz, but at the same time taking this essential legacy to a challenging tour in outer territories.

Eyal Hareuveni

Frank Schubert, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Martin Blume – Forge (Relative Pitch, 2020) ****½

By Nick Ostrum

When listening to Alexander von Schlippenbach in a sax-piano-percussion trio format, comparisons with his classic trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lovens are difficult to avoid. Naturally, such a comparison lifts the bar for Frank Schubert (saxes) and Martin Blume (drums). Viewing this ensemble through the lens of Schlippenbach-Parker-Lovens, however, is somewhat inappropriate, as the personal continuities rest solely in the pianist and the similarities in instrumentation are somewhat accidental, as styles and techniques can be so personal and vary so greatly. That stands even when the musicians are working with loosely the same free improv vernacular. (See Colin’s review of some of Schubert and Blume’s other work together here for a review that evades this comparison trap and examines the two musicians more clearly on their own terms.)

On Forge’s two tracks, Merge and Forgin the Work, Schubert swings from colorful sound sheets, to swaggering melodies, to expressionistic abstractions and offers formidable counterparts to Schlippenbach’s vacillations between classical romanticism and cubist amelodicism. Blume, meanwhile, finds his way to unique time-keeping, riding the cymbals and frequently sputtering on the bass drum and snare, but never quite falling into the bebop rhythms with which he so playfully flirts. In doing so, he creates a sense of billowing kineticism in the more energetic movements, and endless rummaging for the perfect clicks and clacks in the more spacious ones. At points, as with the classic trio, the three musicians’ lines entangle like a complex and irregular Nordic interweave. At others, Schlippenbach, or Schubert, or Blume deviates, and drives his bandmates into realms yet unexplored.

Most exciting about this album is the balance between Schubert’s and Blume’s tendencies toward jazz melodies and free jazz cacophony and Schlippenbach’s constant pull towards blockier constructions more common to the virtuosic classical vanguard. This contrast leads to diverging paths, an expanding and contraction of musical directions, and a truly compelling knotting that stylistic purity or an overwrought singlemindedness would simply not allow. It is, in other words, a group effort, and one which rewards the listener with almost an hour of expert improvisation that creates moments of clangorous exuberance, curious muffled clatter, and even enlightened serenity, when everything about this alloyed trio and this album just makes sense.