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Keith Tippett piano, composer

David Le Page violin Chris George violin

Malcolm Allison viola Philip Sheppard cello

Composed by Keith Tippett. Originally commissioned by the Kreutzer Quartet this has been given a new lease of life with a stunning performance as part of the Rare Music Club and a subsequent, very successful, UK tour in a double bill with Mujician. Full of melodies and compositional invention this piece has all the intensity and lyricism of Bartok and Janacek, coupled with live improvisation and Tippett genius.

Masterly double-header from Tippett
Jazz Cafe, London
Rating: ****
John Fordham: Guardian: Thursday February 8, 2001

Keith Tippett is rarely heard in his homeland these days, even though in the 1970s the British pianist nearly found the kind of crossover status Courtney Pine enjoys today. So seeing this complex, serious, passionate performer in the Jazz Cafe, a venue that normally obliges musicians to play louder than the roar of exuberant socialising, is an event that belongs in the hen's teeth bracket. But with Tippett the roar was for his playing, not in spite of it.

The eclecticism and idiomatic minglings of recent times are seen as unique, but Tippett has said that the same stimulating environment existed 40 years ago when his distinctive muse was forming. "Coltrane, Ayler, Shepp, Penderecki, Stockhausen, Nono, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones" is how he describes the soundscape he grew up with. He might have added Cecil Taylor, a pianist who is still audible in his dense and jagged runs, tightly clustered chords and percussiveness.

Tippett's tour showcases the evolution of all that musical breadth, being a double-header for his powerful free-jazz ensemble Mujician, and his European classical side as represented by Linuckea, the delicate semi-improvising ensemble with a string quartet.

Mujician was a man short on the London leg of the tour - the thunderous bass virtuoso Paul Rogers. But they are such a compatible improvising ensemble that even as a trio - with the sinewy and urgent Tony Levin on drums and the forceful post-Coltraneist Paul Dunmall on saxes - their energies are unabated.

Linuckea played its original 1995 commission by the Kreutzer String Quartet. The project is in the fore- front of those contemporary ensembles now joining improvisors and notation players in genuine interaction rather than simply pitching jazz against non-jazz textures. The string players engage with it with energy and intelligence, audible in the vivacious shimmer of slow passages against Tippett's dramatic chording and crescendos, and the harmonic density of high-register undulations against the pianist's zigzagging runs.

Tippett is a master of contrast: rugged free-jazzy episodes will be abruptly replaced by clattering loops of sound, or lightly insistent figures like running footsteps will be set against dancing string themes, Hungarian cafe music at warp speed. It was something to witness the Jazz Cafe hushed by this.

Keith Tippett's modern classic
Linuckea / Trio 3
QEH, London
Rating: ****
John L Walters: Guardian: Tuesday June 19, 2001

This Meltdown double bill juxtaposed two strands of music: the first half European, the second American. One featured a continuous suite, the other a collection of short songs. And, though the music of the second half's performers, Trio 3, was rooted in the "new thing" of 30-odd years ago, it was at least played by three of the guys who helped invent it: drummer Andrew Cyrille, alto saxophonist Oliver Lake and the famed Reggie Workman on bass. On the other hand Keith Tippett's Linuckea, for piano quintet, sounded bang up to date, though not in the least bit trendy.

A typical Trio 3 piece features a short, mid-tempo tune stated by Lake over a swinging bass pulse by Workman. Cyrille maintains a loose, circular pattern that expands or contracts to suit the improvisation that breaks out once the band have dispensed with the tune. He tunes his kit to produce a singing, melodic tone. On Casino, he recites a lyric over Workman's solo bass; on a tribute to Art Blakey he plays a long, carefully pitched drum solo.

Linuckea, Tippett's 40-minute piano quintet, already feels like a classic - a new benchmark for the collusion of improvisation and composition. Tippett is an intense and prolific pianist, whatever the context, but the great pleasure of Linuckea is hearing the strings play with the same passion. Whether playing the parts or improvising, violinists David Le Page and Christopher George, substitute viola player Ian Rathbone and cellist Philip Sheppard play the piece from the inside. They own every note they play: breakneck unisons with the piano; grinding chords over which Tippett ad libs; delicate waltz themes that self-destruct; short outbursts of brittle improvisation.

Although the structure of the quintet is fixed, Tippett finds new ways to surprise himself and the audience within his piano part. He invades his instrument, plucking, scraping and preparing the strings to transform its role within the quintet. At one moment he is creating a sound effect that rumbles way below the written quartet lines. But before you know it, the strings are providing the accompaniment to his solos. A powerful performance of a great piece.

On the Edge CD of the Week
Rating: ****

John L Walters: Guardian: Friday March 2, 2001
Plenty of CDs that come out on small labels in the creative music field are decidedly low-density and low in ambition: they may be worthy attempts at documentation, or as a declaration of intent, but they are hard to value as a repeatable musical experience. Linuckea is different. The music made by Tippett and his colleagues rewards careful listening, resulting in one of the best-value CDs I've heard for a while.

The title track is a 36-minute continuous piece for piano (played by Tippett himself) and string quartet. It exemplifies the freedom and fluidity possible for a composer who is also a great improviser - the boundaries between the two are blurred and in many cases insignificant. Tippett explains his intentions as follows: "One of the differences between preconceived composition and spontaneous composition is that the former is solidified by ink on paper. Within pre-conceived architecture, the opportunity to improvise enables the performers to be creators not just curators."

There's nothing new about jazz pieces with lots of writing or classical pieces with improvisation, but it is still remarkably difficult to put together a skilled creative group that can successfully perform in this way. Or perhaps I should say that the alternatives are so much more easy and straightforward that they are what gets funded and rehearsed for most of the time.

The opening passage of the piece states all its musical concerns from the outset, with assertive ensemble phrases, a long piano figure that drills its way into your memory, a slower, more elastic theme and some intricate unisons that test the string players' ability to hook into a rhythmic feel that is neither jazz nor contemporary classical, but has the qualities of both. Linuckea is riddled with melodies, and both piano and strings exhibit some of the fractured spikiness associated with Tippett since his young band erupted on the British jazz scene three decades ago.

The full line-up is Tippett, playing inside and outside the piano (plus occasional bells and woodblocks), Philip Sheppard (cello), Malcolm Allison (viola) and violinists David Le Page and Christopher George. One of the joys of their performance is that they sound at once like a band jamming and like an assured chamber group. It's Tippett's piece, but it was the string players (or at least three of them) who initiated the commission. Their commitment to Linuckea shines throughout the recording, which is engineered by Steve Lowe and produced by Daryl Runswick
— **** John L. Walters, The Guardian (On the Edge CD of the Week, 2 March 2001)

Keith Tippett & Linuckea/Mujician
Londra, Jazz Café, 6 febbraio 2001
© Lara Bellini, 2001

(...) Andare ad un concerto di Tippett e' sempre una grande sorpresa, non e' possibile aspettarsi qualcosa di predefinito, sempre la sua invidiabile abilita' creativa si riserva di dire l'ultima, fortunatamente. E cosi' e' stato anche al Jazz Café', dove un pubblico attentissimo ed estremamente partecipe si e' spellato le mani ad applaudire una performance iniziale che ha visto il pianista inglese confrontarsi nel progetto coi Linuckea, classico quartetto d'archi per non certo classiche improvvisazioni (David Le Page e Chris George ai violini, Malcom Allison viola, Philip Sheppard contrabbasso).

Da scarabocchiatissimi spartiti l'ensamble si e' prodotto in 20 minuti quasi al limite della dodecafonia (a volte echi Shoemberghiani?), rumorismo dissonante e il pianoforte impegnato fra un dispettoso ed irriverente valzerino e giochi interpretativi alla Tippett, con le corde del piano torturate con pezzi di legno e plastica, pizzicate quasi a produrre il suono di un clavicembalo zoppo. (...) . E se dopo cosi' vivace alea, la ripresa del tema iniziale poteva sembrare una conclusione distensiva, e' invece dispiaciuto a tutti che dopo piu' di venti minuti cosi' tanta felicita' musicale fosse gia' finita.

Il secondo tempo ha visto Tippett coi Mujician, senza Rogers come gia' detto, e nonostante sia dispiaciuto non averli visti "interi" eppure davvero si sono fatti onore, con il sax bopper/free/improvvisato (e non saprei che altro!) di Paul Dunmall ad aprire un potentissimo inizio free, accompagnato da quella valanga percussiva che e' Tony Levin alla batteria, e il piano invece contrapposto e straniante a continuare secondo dissonanze contaminate da plastiche e legni, eclettiche ripetizioni di patterns minimali, e a suggerire di soppiatto sonorita' e patterns free, per poi ogni tanto lanciarsi in accompagnamenti piu' rigorosamente jazz.

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