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Schlippenbach Quartet

Founded in the early '70s, the Schlippenbach Trio was an all-star powerhouse in Germany's vibrant avant-garde music scene throughout the '70s. Astoundingly, the group remains intact as a cohesive and dynamic musical entity today. Headed by Berlin pianist and composer Alex von Schlippenbach, perhaps most famous for founding the free jazz collective The Globe Unity Orchestra, the ensemble delightfully blends wildly careening free jazz, weird experimental noise, and contemporary classical music. The brilliant and difficult British saxophonist Evan Parker and German percussionist/musical saw player Paul Lovens (both also Globe Unity contributors) are the other members of the trio.

For a few years in the mid '70s, the trio swelled to become a quartet when German bassist Peter Kowald, an early Peter Brötzmann collaborator, joined the group. As a foursome, the group recorded Three Nails Left (1974), Hunting the Snake (1975), and The Hidden Peak (1977).

"Wenn Wir Kehlkopfspieler Uns Unterhalten" appears on that middle effort. It's a dazzling 16-minute affair dominated by Lowens's crashing, apocalyptic percussion and Schlippenbach's ominous piano. Kowald's bass squirms and wriggles throughout while Parker honks and squeaks alarmingly. Most definitely not for the squeamish.

The Schlippenbach Trio would again briefly become a quartet in the early '80s when American bassist Alan Silva signed on. The group's core three members continue to work together, most recently releasing Complete Combustion in 1998.