Manfred Schoof European Echoes

The Unheard Music Series unleashes another cornerstone of European free improve with Manfred Schoof's European Echoes. The title is apt, as the players hail from Denmark, Italy, Britain and Germany. This has the feel (and participants) of Alexander von Schlippenbach's Globe Unity Orchestra but without the same level of aggression. Schoof's technique is to group players together, bypassing individual efforts in favour of group coloration; if you've never heard three pianists or three bassists soloing at once, now's your chance. Few players rise out of the slightly murky recording (ironic, given that engineer Jost Gerbers went on to found ECM records and develop its sparse sound), but paint-peeling players like Peter Brotzmann, Derek Bailey and trumpeter Enrico Rava can conquer any sonic wash. Gerd Dudek's tenor is a major exclamation in part two of this (formerly) LP-length suite. Schoof himself is modest in not soloing until the very end, almost like a professor concluding the class discussion. European Echoes strikes a balance between the heated improv of its participants and Schoof's strategy for deploying this fury. There's no way you'd mistake this for an American recording of the time due to its lack of blues-isms, but you could make a case for comparison with Sun Ra's approach to massive colors of sound at the time. At 30 minutes, the whole affair is short and sweet. (Atavistic)