The Schlippenbach Trio ended their 18-date European tour at the Vortex on Friday night with two sets of free improvisation that drew some of the most enthusiastic and sustained applause I’ve heard this year. Three musicians of immense experience — the pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, the saxophonist Evan Parker and the drummer Paul Lovens — were operating, after more than 40 years of playing together, at a peak of inventiveness and maturity.
I was enjoying it too greatly to take much in the way even of mental notes, but the evening left a residue of powerful memories: Schlippenbach spending a great deal of time working in the octave below middle C, his playing austere but never forbidding; Parker producing wonderfully mellow improvisations, constantly searching for and finding the most perfect entry and exit points; Lovens leaning forward, staying close to the surfaces of his drums and cymbals, making time and no-time slip in and out of each other with a marvellous control of energy-flow.
I saw them play the previous night. There was a sudden quote from Salt Peanuts by Schlippenbach in the first set, and after the break they seemed to take their cue from Coltrane, with Parker playing notes that were longer and more sustained than I’ve heard before. I really enjoyed it.