Alexander von Schlippenbach

Alexander von Schlippenbach

biographical notes taken from:

European Free Improvisation Pages

Alexander von Schlippenbach
Born 7 April 1938, Berlin; Piano, composer.

Well known - in improvising circles - for his trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lovens and as constant moving force behind the Globe Unity Orchestra, Alex von Schlippenbach's involvement with the music spans over 30 years and, inevitably, many other associations.

He took piano lessons from the age of eight and studied at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik, Köln, with the composers Bernd Alois Zimmermann and Rudolf Petzold. From 1962 to 1965 he was playing and arranging in a group with Gunter Hampel before moving on to work with Manfred Schoof in his Quintet and Sextett. Members of the Schoof group and Peter Brötzmann's trio crossed paths in the mid-60s and in an eventual joining of the ways, the first version of Globe Unity Orchestra was formed. A number of 'anti-festivals' organised by musicians in 1968 (including one by Alex von Schlippenbach in Köln) eventually led to the formation of the FMP label with Jost Gebers behind the controls and the first records released included Schoof's European Echoes and Schlippenbach's The Living music.

Long standing associations have included a duo with Sven-Ake Johansson and a trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lovens, though wide-ranging interests have led him to be involved in large scale projects such as the Globe Unity Orchestra and the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, in addition to small group playing. One of the few European players who considers that the term 'free jazz' is as reasonable as any to describe his playing; quoted by Evan Parker as saying 'Free jazz keeps you young' (50th birthday concert).

If recordings are any indication of a musician's working position, Schlippenbach has stubbornly steered clear of the tendency to produce regular solo piano recordings, somewhat ironically, given what must have been the economic difficultly of keepting Globe Unity on (and off) the road for 20 years. One might have expected that the obstacles to work would force a more financial reality and sense of compromise upon the musician and solo music would have been one way out of this predicament. But to someone with this sense of vision (and community) the idea of long periods devoted to solo work would probably be anathema.

Perhaps the interest in large scale writing and arranging not satisfied through the attenuated life spans of the various Globe Unity groupings found an outlet in other ways. In 1980 he told Cooke that he was 'still busy as a composer for big bands' (and he had already arranged for the Italian RIA big band: Monk unrecorded and Jelly Roll Morton recorded).


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