John Tchicai/Irene Schwiezer/Schlippenbach Quartet

John Tchicai/Irene Schwiezer

Willi The Pig

Schlippenbach Quartet

Hunting The Snake


In all of the rhetoric surrounding “free-jazz,” sometimes we forget what the music is free from. I’d say that post-Coltrane jazz is free from more than chord progressions and conventional melody; it’s free to explore the depths of the soul, it’s free to test the limits of human ingenuity, it’s free to make a grand ruckus and not have to explain itself, it’s free to sing to the heavens. I don’t care what you say, an old sharecropper hollerin’ the blues on his front porch with an old diddley-bow has at least a thousand times the soul that any number of “cool” jazz players can muster. Willi The Pig and Hunting The Snake are part of Atavistic’s noble quest to bring the difficult and obscure (for whatever reason) to light. Both of these two reissues explore the “free-jazz” idiom, however differently.

Of the two, I prefer Willi The Pig. The contrasts between clamorous and contemplative show the range of emotions this group is capable of rousing. John Tchicai (saxophones) and Irene Schweizer (piano) often square off, leading to furious rave-ups. Buschi Niebergal’s bass serves as an active voice in the group, as opposed to a simple rhythmic element. One of the disc’s more poignant moments is his delicate duo with Tchicai on the disc’s second half. Makaya Ntshoko plays as an effective counter to Scweizer’s no-holds-barrred runs, and has an awesome sensitivity to dynamics. The CD was mastered off of three unplayed copies of the original vinyl, so the sound quality is sometimes lagging, but with music of this intensity, it couldn’t matter less.

It’s tempting to draw the visceral/cerebral line between Willi The Pig and Hunting The Snake, but the two records have more in common than they have differences. Both were released in the same year (1975) on European labels. Both have the same instrumental line-up (sax, piano, bass and drums), and both reference animals in their titles. Schlippenbach (piano), Evan Parker (saxophones), Peter Kowald (bass), and Paul Lovens (drums) spend far more time on extended technique and extra-spatial communication. Parker’s circularly breathed solo on the title track is simply awe-inspiring, but Schlippenbach’s inside-the-piano exploration earlier in the track fails to really go anywhere. The quartet’s rapport seems telepathic, and the members allow each other plenty of space for exploration. During all of both discs, there’s not a single dull moment. Recommended for those deficient in free-jazz exhilaration.

Atavistic, P.O. Box 578266, Chicago, IL 60657;

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