Hannover, December 1994, Hohe-Ufer-Konzert No.168, at the KESSELHAUS, the former power supply station for the small industrial enterprises nearby. A space of well over 120 square meters, high, bright open-pored walls, a pitched roof made out of black wooden boards, ideal acoustics. The kind of space about which Evan Parker commented a few months previously "even an old shoe would look good in it". Not a large audience, however, a highly focussed, sensitive, expert audience.
On this evening, the three musicians get together as a trio for the first time but they all know each other. Christmann and Lovens are among the generation of Free Jazz and free improvisation players, and have been working together regularly since 1971, in various combinations. The duo playing of these two masters on their instruments is so obviously carried by a common inner voice where no one has to prove anything to the other, that one cannot help thinking that a third partner would only interfere. Mats Gustafsson – a generation younger than the other two – at this point has been present on the free music scene for a few of years. Right from the beginning impressive in his virtuosity, included by Christmann early on in his VARIO formations, quickly recognised by numerous colleagues as a high flying performer on stage through his energetic commitment, and consequently very busy. He has connections with both of them, Lovens as well as Christmann, via experiences of intense collaborations as duos.
You come to the concert with expectations and reservations and realise within the first minutes of this music that, as a listener, you have to stay tuned if you want to be part of the dramatic events of this evening.
It is not that the hectic density of musical events demands it. It is the tension not to be withdrawn from, in the same way the musician who remains silent is not absent from the playing – which then also makes possible his precise re-entry. Even the more two-dimensional events - the subtle splayed homophony of singing saw, flageolets on cello strings and high multiphonics of the baritone saxophone or extended stretches of intermeshed percussion – never turn into easy-to-grasp patterns.
The lid sits loosely on top of approaching new thrusts, and rhythmical patterns are not infrequently elegiacly-melicly circled and resolved by the cello or embellished with intricate pizzicato.
The eruptive sound attacks of the saxophone, as well, never harden into a mere show of strength in this trio, which would allow the listening to be drawn into the slipstream of one-track, powerhouse playing. The harshness of these attacks is actively modulated in such cases, just balancing on the borderline between exhaustion and disintegration, so that you cannot even think of it as mere listener’s indulgence.
On the other hand, there is no sensationalising, in all this playing together everything happens as a matter of course.
Even Paul Lovens’ extremely heavy dry accents or his massive surprise attacks on the course of musical events with his complete kit do not monopolise or unsettle things but integrate themselves into the over-all events.
Space is given. To each musician’s impulses as well as his playing. The typically jazz-driven playing of saxophone and drums doesn’t simply persist over and above the diffuse breathy gyrations of the trombone; it finds its new course in there. Solo excursions are permitted, taken for granted, just in the same way as all three of them together maintain the tension curve of the pieces. Extremes are by all means played out but not just left to take over, paralysing the breadth, and the automatism of uniform dynamic arcs is as scarce as the vanity of a musician macerating the end of a piece by insisting on having the last word.
The tacit dedication of the three musicians to nothing but the musical flow, the confidence of the shared range within their playing helps the listening process to stay in tune with them. However, despite all the transparency of the musical events which is derived from the immediacy of its creation during the concert, the feeling of distance remains. A distance the music itself speaks of without revoking it. The music remains a realm in itself in all its wherefrom and whereto, assumes for itself an independence from the limitations of combined time and space. Done, consummated, always heard in a different way, never finished with. The "creative rest", Adorno talked about.
Always more than you can expect.
Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton