Christian Lillinger

Open Form for Society
Plaist Music 004

Having demonstrated his ingenuity as one of the most capable percussionists on the Jazz-Improv scene, German drummer Christian Lillinger envisioned this suite to show off his compositional skills. Played by a hand-picked trans-European octet of strings, electronics and percussion, the 18 (!) tracks of Open Form for Society certainly does that. Developed with echoes of Thriller-Horror movie soundtracks, a New music recital and the preciseness of the Modern Jazz Quartet, it’s an insightful demonstration of Lillinger’s musical development. However the percussionist does fall victim to the first effort’s handicap. By attempting to shove everything possible into the program, at 76 minutes the CD ends up overlong and with some repetative themes. Astute editing could have produced a superior product.

In essence the unfolding sequences balance on Lillinger’s superior percussion technique as an accompanist and sometime as tandem soloist with others. Further rhythm impetus is provided by British cellist Lucy Railton, Swedish bassist/electric bassist Petter Eldh and especially the rock-solid elaboration of German bassist Robert Landfermann. Wave form elaborations and insinuations come from Austrian Elias Stemeseder’s synthesizer, leaving the narratives to the mallet-driven instruments of Germans Christopher Dell and Roland Neffe, plus the keyboards of Stemesede, Slovenian Kaja Draksler and Greek Antonis Anissegos.

With individual sound makers tripled, it’s nearly impossible to ascribe crafty tune amplification to any one source. Plus with most of the expositions sounding as if they’re through- composed, it’s a credit to and a frustration for the players to separate the improvisations from the score. All the same, a few paired pieces such as “Aorta” and “Thür” plus “Überwindung” and “Laktat” are the equivalent of notated music’s virtuosic showpieces. “Aorta” and “Thür” for instance are based on swinging interchanges between vibes and piano that result is a closely-knit sound tapestry, especially when resolute drum patterns further festoon the result. Torqued upwards with swift mallet swipes and unexpected piano chording, the second tune becomes even more expansive when the other keyboardists add to its underpinning. As abstract as the former tune pairings are melodic, “Überwindung” features a double bass ostinato, hip-hop drums and a pianist burlesquing what could be “Chopsticks”. A continuation, “Laktat” weaves staccato vibrapharp plinks and a near drum-machine-like repeated percussion line to end with a dramatic pianistic display that encompasses a waterfall of glissandi and high-frequency keyboard sweeps.

Other intermezzos are easier to identify. “Excerpts of open form for society (improvisations)” parts “One” and “Two” for instance ascend to become one double bassist’s showcase featuring woody string vibrations and followed by spiky mallet coloration. However “One” includes fan-belt-like slaps, drum rumbles and a high-pitched arco bass exhibition. Notably, electronics are most persuasively used in “Toro Koma” and “Sog”, where the programmed undertow that accompanies jiggling and expanding piano-vibes-drums interaction on the first tune fragment on “Sog” with knob-twisting buzzes and granular stretching so that the subsequent hissing and grinding are challenged by woody pops from the double bass at the finale.

Variations of these sequences echo throughout the disc, with notable playing. Mixing straight-ahead motifs with extended techniques, there are even points where mating kinetic keyboard patterns, swift melodic vibes, a steady bass line and usual, but understated drumming patterning make a 21st Century variant of the MJQ appears.

With Open Form for Society, Lillinger demonstrate that he’s no one-trick (percussion) pony. But there are still a little too many repeated ideas here. The advantages of musical maturity said Dizzy Gillespie is learning what not to play. It’s the same for writing. Hopefully the drummer will follow that creed and create more of an impression with his next leadership effort.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Piece for Up & Grand-Piano 2. Aorta 3. Thür 4. Titan 5. Basel 6. Sisyphos (CMS) 7. Überwindung 8. Laktat 9. Mocking 10. Toro Koma 11. Sog 12. Triangular 13. KfkA

Excerpts of open form for society (improvisations): 14. One 15. Two 16. Three 17. Four

Personnel: Antonis Anissegos (piano); Kaja Draksler (Upright piano); Elias Stemeseder (synthesizer, piano); Lucy Railton (cello); Robert Landfermann (bass); Petter Eldh (bass, electric bass); Christopher Dell (vibraphone): Roland Neffe (marimbaphone, vibraphone and glockenspiel) and Christian Lillinger (drums)