Following on from the Bergisch-Brandenburgisches Quartett’s anarchic »Live ’82« (BT095), Black Truffle continues its deep dive into the archives of legendary drummer / accordionist / photographer / composer / conceptual prankster Sven-Åke Johansson with »Scheisse ’71«.
Recorded in November 1971 during the Berliner Jazztage at a heavy-hitting concert that also included the Spontaneous Music Ensemble and groups led by Peter Brötzmann, Manfred Schoof, and Masahiko Sato, »Scheisse ’71« is the only document of a wild, otherwise unrecorded quintet featuring Johansson on drums, accordion and oboe d’amore, legendary free jazz vocalist Jeanne Lee, her husband Gunter Hampel on vibes, flute and bass clarinet, live electronics pioneer Michael Waisvisz on modified Putney (VCS 3) synthesizer, and the unknown Freddy Gosseye on electric bass.
Part of a festival centred on giants of jazz like Duke Ellignton and Dizzy Gillespie, the radical performance shocked its audience, who can be heard heckling and yelling abuse at points, including the titular exclamation of Scheiße! Clocking at just over half an hour and recorded in raw but detailed stereo by Johansson himself, the music burns with intensity while also making room for spacious passages and frequent dynamic movement. Beginning with Lee’s voice, Hampel on flute and Johansson on oboe d’amore in a bird-like game of call and response, the unexpected entry of Waisvisz’s tortured, squelching synth bursts prompts the first of many changes in energy and instrumentation, as Gosseye’s busy, roving bass enters and Johansson moves to the kit, his swinging cymbal work and juddering toms extending the approach of Sunny Murray or early Milford Graves. The presence of synthesizer, electric bass, and Lee’s highly amplified voice moves the quintet away from conventional free jazz textures, at times pushing into zones of abstract free sound reminiscent of what groups like MEV, AMM or Johansson’s MND were exploring in the same years. But the energy and joyful melodicism of the music keep it rooted in the tradition of American fire music and its European inheritors.
Capable of changing gears in an instant from ferocious blow outs to fragile tapestries of chiming vibes and fizzing synth, the music finds space for Lee’s post-bop free scat (which integrates shrieks and howls just as a post-Ayler saxophonist might), Gosseye’s virtuosic bass runs (a rare attempt to apply the classic free jazz style of players like Alan Silva or Henry Grimes to the electric instrument), Johansson’s folkish accordion interjections, and even a sustained passage of unison bass clarinet and electric bass riffing in its second half. Special mention should be made of Waisvisz’s Putney performance, one of the earliest documents of this under-recorded instrument inventor and player, here playing a major role in giving the music its wildly exploratory, primordial air, his buzzing glissandi and bubbling filter sweeps at times howling like a distressed monkey. Arriving in an austerely stylish sleeve with beautiful black and white photographs by Johansson, »Scheisse ’71« is an essential recording that adds yet another layer to our appreciation of this golden era of radical free music.