Boomkat Product Review:
Alexander von Schlippenbach sits alongside his wife and long-time collaborator Aki Takase on 'Four Hands Piano Pieces', and the two push each other to take the instrument to its limits. Not for the faint of heart.
Since the late 1970s, Takase has been navigating jazz's outer fringes and performing across the world with legends like Han Bennink, Axel Dörner, David Murray and Sebastian Gramss - she even had a stint in the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra. That shouldn't be so surprising as her partner von Schlippenbach founded the outfit, as well as recording with Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker and Manfred Schoof, among others. The two have collaborated so frequently at this stage that they must know every wrinkle in each other's personality, and indeed their performance on 'Four Hands Piano Pieces' sounds like two people who think almost as one.
Students of jazz's great ivory ticklers Thelonius Monk and Duke Ellington, the duo impart their technically dizzying performances with boundless historical knowledge. So even when they drift leftwards, there's inevitably a rescue line dangling nearby that'll link confused listeners with their beloved canon. 'Stoneblock 1' sounds at times like a panic attack realized in equal temperament, but before Takase and von Schlippenbach's relentless tapping gets too painful, the two players re-assemble their deconstructions into what might resemble bebop, if you stare for long enough. And on 'Sway' their influences are just about easier to place as they swing through staccato zig-zags that make Monk's asymmetrical prangs sound comparatively buttoned down. Impressive.