Alex von Schlippenbach

Born 7 April 1938, Berlin; Piano, composer.

Well known - in improvising circles - for his trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lovens and as constant moving force behind the Globe Unity Orchestra, Alex von Schlippenbach's involvement with the music spans over 30 years and, inevitably, many other associations.

He took piano lessons from the age of eight and studied at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik, Köln, with the composers Bernd Alois Zimmermann and Rudolf Petzold. From 1962 to 1965 he was playing and arranging in a group with Gunter Hampel before moving on to work with Manfred Schoof in his Quintet and Sextett. Members of the Schoof group and Peter Brötzmann's trio crossed paths in the mid-60s and in an eventual joining of the ways, the first version of Globe Unity Orchestra was formed. A number of 'anti-festivals' organised by musicians in 1968 (including one by Alex von Schlippenbach in Köln) eventually led to the formation of the FMP label with Jost Gebers behind the controls and the first records released included Schoof's European Echoes and Schlippenbach's The Living music.

Long standing associations have included a duo with Sven-Ake Johansson and a trio with Evan Parker and Paul Lovens, though wide-ranging interests have led him to be involved in large scale projects such as the Globe Unity Orchestra and the Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra, in addition to small group playing. One of the few European players who considers that the term 'free jazz' is as reasonable as any to describe his playing; quoted by Evan Parker as saying 'Free jazz keeps you young' (50th birthday concert).

If recordings are any indication of a musician's working position, Schlippenbach has stubbornly steered clear of the tendency to produce regular solo piano recordings, somewhat ironically, given what must have been the economic difficultly of keepting Globe Unity on (and off) the road for 20 years. One might have expected that the obstacles to work would force a more financial reality and sense of compromise upon the musician and solo music would have been one way out of this predicament. But to someone with this sense of vision (and community) the idea of long periods devoted to solo work would probably be anathema.

Perhaps the interest in large scale writing and arranging not satisfied through the attenuated life spans of the various Globe Unity groupings found an outlet in other ways. In 1980 he told Cooke that he was 'still busy as a composer for big bands' (and he had already arranged for the Italian RIA big band: Monk unrecorded and Jelly Roll Morton recorded).

Further information

Cook, Richard (1986), The indispensible focus, The Wire, no. 30, (August), pp. 10-11, 46.


It is convenient to consider three main small playing situations:

  1. Schlippenbach trio
  2. Schlippenbach/Johansson
  3. Other groupings

Schlippenbach trio

A marvellous free jazz trio/quartet comprising Alex von Schlippenbach, Evan Parker and Paul Lovens that has incredibly maintained group stability, artistic integrity and a staggering level of consistency and development over its period of 25 years.
1972, Pakistani pomade, FMP 110.
1972, Pakistani pomade, UMS/ALP240CD. CD reissue of FMP 110 with bonus tracks.
1972, For example, FMP R123. Two part track on commemorative/compilation 3LP set.
1974/75, Three nails left, FMP 0210. Quartet with Peter Kowald.
1975, Hunting the snake, UMS/ALP213CD. Quartet with Peter Kowald.
1977, The hidden peak, FMP 0410. Quartet with Peter Kowald.
1981 Detto fra di noi, Po Torch PTR/JWD 10&11.
1981, Das hohe lied, Po Torch PTR/JWD 16&17. Quartet with Alan Silva.
1982, Anticlockwise, FMP 1020. Quartet with Alan Silva.
1983, Option Abdullah, Jazzgalerie Nicklesdorf. Track on compilation CD.
1990, Elf bagatellen, FMP CD 27.
1991, Physics, FMP CD 50.
1994, 50th birthday concert, Leo CD LR 212/213. Schlippenbach trio on one CD; Parker/Guy/Lytton trio on the other.
1998, Complete combustion, FMP CD 106.
1998, Swinging the BIM, FMP CD 114/15.
1999, 2X3=5, Leo CD LR 305. Parker/Guy/Lytton + Schlippenbach Trio.
2002, Total Music Meeting 2002 - Audiology II, a/l/l 006. Compilation CD of 11 groups live in Berlin.
2002, Compression: live at Total Music Meeting 2002, a/l/l 011.
2003, america 2003, psi 04.06/7. Parker/Schlippenbach/Lytton.


1976, Schlippenbach & Johansson live at the Quartier Latin, FMP 0310.
1977, Kung Bore, FMP0520.
1976/77, Live 1976/77, FMP CD 111. CD re-issue of above two LPs minus one track.
1979, Drive, FMP0810.
1979, Idylle und katastrophen, Po Torch PTR/JWD 6. Schlippenbach/Johansson/Altena/Bailey/Christmann/Fuchs/Lovens/Natvig.
1982, Kalfactor A. Falke, FMP0970.
1984, Night and day FMP S13. Schlippenbach/Johansson/Carl/Oliver.
1984, Blind aber hungrig - norddeutsche gesänge, FMP S15.
1986, ...über Ursache und Wirkung der Meinungsverschiedenheiten beim Turmbau zu Babel, FMP S20/21. Schlippenbach/Johansson/LeBarron/Honsinger/Baumgart/Fuchs/Lovens
1988, Moonlight becomes you FMP OWN-90007/9. One track featuring Night and Day plus Lol Coxhill on Rüdiger Carl compilation CD.
1992, Night and Day plays them all, Edition Artelier Graz 6CD set. Night and Day.
1994, Smack up again, Two Nineteen Records 2-19-002.

Other groupings

1966, Heartplants, Saba 15 026. The Gunter Hampel group including Alex von Schlippenbach.
1966, Voices, CBS 62621. Manfred Schoof group including Alex von Schlippenbach.
1966/67, The early quintet, FMP 0540. Manfred Schoof.
1967, Manfred Schoof Sextett, Wergo WER 80003.
1969, The living music, FMP 0100/UMS/ALP231CD.
1969, European echoes, FMP 0010/UMS/ALP232CD. Manfred Schoof.
1980, Jelly roll, FMP SAJ-31. Seven pieces by Jelly Roll Morton arranged by Alex von Schlippenbach.
1981, Alarm, FMP 1030. Peter Brötzmann group.
1982, Rondo brillante, FMP 1040. Piano duets with Martin Theurer.
1984, ,stranger than love, Po Torch PTR/JWD 12. Marvellous duet, well recorded, with Paul Lovens.
1989, Smoke, FMP CD23. Duo with Sunny Murray.
1990, Trend, Splasc(h) CD H 309.2 With Mario Schiano/Evan Parker/Joëlle Léandre and Paul Lytton.
1993/1994, Piano duets: live in Berlin 93/94, FMP OWN-90002. Duos with Aki Takase.
1995, Backgrounds for improvisors, FMP CD 75. Improvisors Pool with Sam Rivers.
1997, Tangens, FMP CD 99. Duo with Sam Rivers.
1997, Digger's harvest, FMP CD 103. Duo with Tony Oxley.
1997, Legendary: the 27th of May 1997, Birth 045. Gunter Hampel Quintet.
2002, Broomriding, psi 03.05. Schlippenbach/Mahall/Honsinger/Lovens.
2003, Open speech, Forward.rec 03. Duo with Carlos Bechegas.
2003, The Bishop's move, Victo cd 093. Evan Parker Trio & Peter Brötzmann Trio.
2003/2004, Monk's casino: the complete works of Thelonious Monk, Intakt CD 100. Alexander Von Schlippenbach/Axel Dörner/Rudi Mahall/Jan Roder/Uli Jennessen.

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