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Alexander Von Schlippenbach/Tony Oxley: Digger’s Harvest

Curiously, Alexander von Schlippenbach is one first-generation European free improviser not receiving regular huzzahs by an increasingly cognizant U.S. press. Maybe it’s due to the pianist’s infrequent trips Stateside, or that he doesn’t have CDs hitting the market by the dozens each year. Digger’s Harvest is, then, a timely reminder of Schlippenbach’s many achievements and how, as he approaches the 40-year mark of his landmark work Globe Unity (which spawned the great orchestra of the same name), Schlippenbach continues to create compelling music.

Schlippenbach has a penchant for a tightly-coiled bluesiness that is especially well-aired on Digger’s Harvest, a duo exchange with percussionist Tony Oxley. Like Lovens, Oxley pioneered the use of metal, wood and other materials to extend the timbral palette of a traditional traps and cymbals configuration, but Oxley’s playing has a more palpable linkage to such ’60s drum icons as Milford Graves. Given Schlippenbach and Oxley’s respective histories-they both ventured into free playing at about the same time and have many mutual collaborators-it’s odd that they hadn’t previously worked as a duo. It proves to be an excellent match, though. Oxley’s brand of rhythmic flow is essential to the two nearly half-hour improvisations that bookend the program. Schlippenbach responds with torrential runs that whiplash up and down the keyboard. Conversely, on the five shorter pieces, Schlippenbach’s sharply focused approach to developing concentrated thematic materials elicits a more augmentative approach from Oxley. It’s this give and take that makes Digger’s Harvest such an engaging recording.

Originally Published