CD: 1981

2006, atavistic CD ALP261CD // 13 Tracks // 45:25 Musicians Christoph Gallio soprano sax // Urs Voerkel piano, drums // Peter K Frey double bass, trombone // Production notes All copositions are by Christoph Gallio, Urs Voerkel and Peter K Frey // Recorded live at Werkstatt für Improvisierte Musik Zurich (WIM) by TIEGEL, 1981 June 16 // Edited by Christoph Gallio and Peter K Frey // Mastered at Gallus Studio St.Gallen by Johannes Widmer // Graphic design by House of ATA // Cover art by Rebecca Shore





Switzerland doesn’t come up often in discussions of European free improvisation, though the country has produced some of Europe’s most renowned improvisers – figures like pianist Iréne Schweizer, drummer Pierre Favre and bassist León Francioli. Somewhat more obscure than his contemporaries, Zürich-based pianist Urs Voerkel has maintained a solid place in the European free music community. Though Swiss, Voerkel’s main recorded association is with drummer Paul Lovens, with whom he recorded an unruly trio side for FMP (with Frey on bass) in 1976, and in a duo that was later released on Po Torch. Voerkel has also recorded as a piano soloist. Tiegel, an unissued session from the turn of the 1980s, finds Voerkel and Frey joined by soprano saxophonist Christoph Gallio for thirteen mostly brief improvisations. Like Buschi Niebergall, the massive Frey doubles on trombone; though his FMP sides were strictly pianistic affairs, here Voerkel stretches his vocabulary to include drums. It’s fair to assume that this was a workshop session – between-cut banter and occasional coughs and sneezes are caught on tape, lending the music a loose ambiance.

Previously unknown to this writer, Gallio (recently of the trio Day & Taxi) presents a delicate sensibility, terse phrases and a breathiness that sometimes recalls the lineage of contemporary flutists – pops, quirks and snorts that aren’t exacted from Lacy or Parker (though perhaps Lol Coxhill and Austrian sopranoist/percussionist Muhammad Malli are comparable). The contrasts between Gallio’s airiness and the earthy, rooted motor of Frey’s bass provide a perfect gap for Voerkel to bridge, either through tonally ambiguous pianistic weight or jittery, percussive swing. Certainly, the low-country school holds some precedence, especially on tracks featuring Voerkel’s piano – he’s comparable in some ways to Mengelberg, Hazevoet and Van Hove (and they’ve all spent hours with de Leeuw’s Satie). The ninth improvisation brings together barrelhouse classicism, Gallio’s birdsong and a guttural Frey, whooping it up on both voice and mouthpiece. Two tracks later, Voerkel has internalized some of Gallio’s soprano chirps into his piano playing, creating a sinewy dance of twitters as Frey prods and thrums around the duo. Though by no means a session essential to mapping the history of European free improvisation, Atavistic has once again combed the corners of the music’s lesser-known scenes to provide a broader picture, and Tiegel is a valuable snapshot. 


Wer erinnert sich wohl noch an frühere WIM- und Fabrikjazz-Zeiten? In der Zürcher WIM (Werkststatt für Improvisierte Musik) trafen sich Ende der siebziger Jahre eine Reihe Musiker, um Ebenen improvisierter Musik zu erforschen und voranzutreiben. Neben Irène Schweizer, Norbert Möslang, Andi Guhl, Stephan Wittwer, Alfred Zimmerlin, Jürg Hager, Thomas Hiestand u.a. gehörten auch Sopransaxophonist Christoph Gallio, Pianist Urs Voerkel und Bassist und Posaunist Peter K. Frey dazu, die 1978 das bis 1982 existierende Trio "Tigel" gründeten. Dieses Trio spielte am 16. Februar 1982 an der Eröffnung der FABRIKJAZZ-Reihe, worüber von Christian Rentsch im Tages-Anzeiger u.a. zu lesen war: "Das Zürcher Trio "Tiegel" zeigte dann als erste Gruppe des Abends, um was es in der zeitgenössischen, improvisierten Musik geht: Weniger das Resultat als vielmehr der Prozess, die Entwicklung von Spannung und Reibung, fast an beliebigem Material, steht im Vordergrund". Überraschend oder nicht: Hochinteressant ist, dass diese Formen spontan improvisierter Musik - heute würde man dazu wohl "instant composing" sagen - überhaupt nicht abgestanden wirken, ihre Gültigkeit bewahrt haben und heute wie damals spannende Hörabenteuer bedeuten (auch wenn Voerkels Klavier verstimmt ist, woran man sich aber erstaunlicherweise schnell gewöhnt). Diese wieder entdeckten Aufnahmen entstanden übrigens live im "direct to two-track"-Verfahren am 16. Juni 1981 in der WIM. , **** (4 Sterne)


Poursuivant sa politique de rééditions et d’exhumations des moments forts de la free music, John Corbett a déniché ici quelques précieuses pépites signées Christoph Gallio, Urs Voerkel et Peter K Frey. En ce 16 juin 1981, s’élabore à Zürich une musique captivante. Urs Voerkel et Peter K. Frey jouent alors en trio avec Paul Lovens. Christoph Gallio, jeune saxophoniste suisse, se joint à eux le temps d’une rencontre. En treize improvisations dont l’enregistrement a gardé la chronologie, une musique, fière et résolue, s’impose. Christoph Gallio possède quelque chose de lacyen dans sa manière de découper à vif ses phrases. Nous l’écoutons chercher, entretenir un unisson, improviser une mélodie spontanée. Nous l’entendons diversifier les intensités. Nous le découvrons surtout à l’écoute de ses deux partenaires (Urs Voerkel à la manière de son amie Irène Schweizer tâte aussi de la batterie et Peter K Frey délaisse parfois sa contrebasse au profit d’un trombone fort aiguisé). Tous les trois visent la simplicité, la cordialité des échanges. Sachant le danger des convulsions faciles, ils jouent et entretiennent le silence. Ils le suspendent et réussissent le pari d’une musique jamais ennuyeuse et très souvent poignante. Cela méritait bien que nous le sachions et que nous l’écoutions aujourd’hui. C’est désormais chose faite. Merci Monsieur Corbett!


European free improv, an archives session of abstract playing from 1981. Gallio plays sax throughout... Urs Vorkel is on piano or drums, and Peter K. Frey on bass or trombone, so you get a variety of musical combinations. Sax tends to take the lead, either squealing and wailing on the slower sad pieces or getting into a choppy attack on the faster ones. The piano is quite jazzy and even gets into a '70s pop feeling at times (1,11).

These are compact improvs: Many tracks fall in the 2- to 3-minute range, with only one clocking it at more than five. It's like they started on an idea or mood and consciously played it out quickly.

1- 27 seconds of conversation (German), then some nicely jazzy piano leading into fast, hardy improv

2- Slow, spare, but engaging

3- Easy melody close to "normal" jazz, falls into fairly dark improv

4- Scrawling, aggressive, but still a sparse feel. (drums & trombone)

5- Cooled-down sax melody; staggery drums and bass. Gets into more of a flow later, fairly aggressive.

6- Fast but spare. Jazzy piano, in bursts.

7- Mystery tiptoing, w/quiet bass and piano. Very quiet start.

8- Psych-jazz drum intro, into high, carefree sax. Mid/fast, openly breezy

9- Fast, but after 1.5 minutes of near silence

10- Cute 50-second number, nice little rhythm

11- Jumpy perversion of pop jazz

12- Crazy fast, scattery bowed bass, with long sax tones atop.

13- Aggressive, staggery. With gruff trombone. 


Largely unknown in the U.S. Gallio studied under Steve Lacy in Paris and performed with Frith and Minton in the 90s. Soprano sax, piano-drums and double bass-trombone in a 1981 Zurich performance. From flickering phrases to flowering long-wave extensions, this trio lets you know they’re comfortable with space. Polyphonic wind and ripples of piano wrap around earthy basslines to concoct a potent european experimentalism. Sensible and stylish while touching on the outer edges of improv jazz. This is the euro-stuff at its finest, much like the Dieter Scherf and Mount Everest Trio releases.

3W: Fine Swiss Craftmanship



A series of short improvisations from the trio of Christoph Gallo on soprano sax, Urs Voerkel on piano and drums, and Peter K Frey on bass and trombone -- all recorded in a very loose. The feel here is very much in line with some of the FMP improvisations from the period -- but there's also a more restrained quality on some numbers -- a style of more languidly exploring space that nicely offsets the more dynamic, over the top tracks. The use of soprano sax is especially nice -- somewhere in a space between Steve Lacy and Evan Parker -- and the album features 13 tracks in all, one as short as 50 seconds, another as long as 9 minutes. 


Excellent 1981 session resurrected by Unheard Music Series, with Swiss soprano saxophonist Christoph Gallio joined by Urs Voerkel on piano and drums, Peter K Frey on double bass and trombone. Gutsy Euro austerity played with muscular poetry. 


Day & Taxi Out
 Percaso Production 23 // Gallio, Voerkel & Frey 
 Atavistic ALP261CD

Nearly 25 years separate these trio sessions, but they confirm the consistent musical aptitude of Swiss saxophonist Christoph Gallio. However, considering the 13 tracks on Tiegel, are all improvisations, whereas the 20 [!] tracks on Out are all his compositions, the discs also track the increased musical sophistication of the Zürich-based reedist.

Tiegel was actually the name of the co-op trio formed by Gallio, and more senior Swiss musicians, Peter K Frey, who plays bass and trombone here, and Urs Voerkel, who improvises on piano and drums. That band lasted until 1983. In 1989, after studying in Paris with American soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, Gallio formed the oddly-named Day & Taxi trio, which exists to this day. Different bassist and drummers have filled out the band. On Out, his most recent partners are veteran drummer Marco Käppeli and new bassist Christian Weber, who has recorded with multi-reedist Hans Koch and pianist Michel Wintsch. Gallio plays alto as well as soprano saxophone on this CD, while mezzo soprano Sara Maurer guests on two tracks.

This is quite a change from 1981 where then Gallio-associates Frey had been involved with Free Music in Switzerland since the mid-1970s, and Urs Voerkel had been part of a trio with British trombonist Paul Rutherford and German drummer Paul Lovens. Voerkel must have felt right at home then on the few improvisations here where Frey reveals hitherto unheralded talent on trombone.

Contrapuntal and guttural, his output connects with the saxophonist’s harsh double-tonguing, quickly framing Voerkel’s splashes and cross-sticking on unattached cymbals. The drummer’s cyclical piano patterning is featured along with tail-gate ‘bone color on “Improvisation #9”, as Gallio’s choked split tones finally turn to spetrofluctuation, creating brass-band-like colors when combined with Frey’s output. There are other piano forays as well, highlighting the drummer’s metronomic chording and more conventional comping. However, like Maurer’s pleasant, but somewhat mannered vocalizing on the other CD, the game of musical chairs on Tiegel is secondary to the work of the three in standard trio configuration.

Unlike some other pieces, which find the saxman exhaling distracted, near- inaudible peeps and short chirps, the more-than-nine-minute “Improvisation #5” and “Improvisation #8” are notable precursors to Gallio’s future work. On both interestingly enough, his sound is already close to Lacy’s, before he studied with the older American.

Nasally balladic on the first piece, his tone is low key and parlando, involved with a growly, yet microtonal reed investigation as the drummer confines himself to rolls and cymbal pops, and the bassist to fastidious, single-string plucks. When the reedist’s sound hardens for the tune’s final variation, the tempo accelerates as well with string slapping and snare rattling, ending with an extended cymbal resonation.

Frey is most in his element on the second piece, dramatically building up the almost standard jazz line – complete with Art Blakey-like Hard-Bop drumming – with dark overtones from ricocheting bass strings and near-the-peg investigation.

Two-and-one-half decades on, Gallio appears to have been influenced by Lacy’s elegant, art song cycles as well as his matchless tones. Although seven tracks count in at one minute or less, Gallio also seems to have picked up a Ken Vandermark-styled tendency to dedicate nearly every track to some person or another. Furthermore, with experience that has now had him play with musicians as disparate as American drummer Rashied Ali and British sound-singer Phil Minton, Gallio, who also trained as a visual artist, creates themes here that reference experimental sounds, song cycles Harmolodics, Energy Music and more conventional jazz and New music forms. Sometimes, as on “Strong Six”, the performance even consists of a blues miniature played on alto saxophone.

“Hearts”, the more-than-6½-minute longest track, with its heavily vibrated saxophone lines, is a celebratory dedication to Lacy. Operating on top of four-square bass lines and adagio stops from Weber, and a low-key drum rumble from Käppeli, Gallio varies his textures from smooth, interactive pecking to guttural, mucousy, hard split tones.

In contrast, “Love”, with minimal bass and drum backing finds the alto saxophonist framing a centre section of post-Aylerian squeals and split tones with legato, romantic and fanciful simple lines. “Joy”, mixes Energy Music and Harmolodics, as Dancing In Your Head-like slap bass plus doubled flam and pops from the drummer, evolve in triple counterpoint with Gallio spinning and squeaking elongated textures that feature irregular vibrato.

Finally, there’s “Run”, which scampers along agitato to reflect its title. Again on alto, the saxophonist limits his tongue-slapping and spitting to the finale, instead constructing soulful slurs that use tremolo intensity vibrato to contrapuntally ring-around-the-Rosie with Käppeli’s wood-block clips, rolling snare-drum bounces and double tempo ruffs and rebounds – plus Weber’s allegro bass echoes.

Engaging in both miniature and regular-sized compositions, Gallio proves himself poster boy for of 21st Century accommodation to many styles and musics. Still, like the other CD, Out just misses first rank by the great number and brevity of its tunes. Next time out, perhaps collecting compositional thoughts for a 10-to-20-minute stretch may be a goal. 


Also captured live and loose are the Swiss trio of Chistoph Gallio (soprano saxophone) of the group Day & Taxi, Urs Voerkel (piano and drums), and Peter K Frey (double bass and trombone) from a 1981 set at an improvisation workshop in Zurich entitled Tiegel which features 13 brief improvisations. Voerkel switches between piano and drums often, but I favored Voerkel on the later which provides the trio with a jittery propulsive swing while Frey's trombone adds a nice foil to Gallio's expert soprano lines.


John Corbett continua a salvar velhas pérolas do esquecimento, como é o caso desta gravação de 1981 com Christoph Gallio, Urs Voerkel e Peter K Frey, agora acrescentada ao catálogo da sua colecção na Atavistic, a Unheard Music Series. Frequentadores de “workshops” de Karl Berger e Evan Parker na década de 1970, muito depressa estes três músicos marcaram os seus nomes na cena europeia do free jazz e da livre-improvisação. De notar que Voerkel terá sido o primeiro músico suíço da área a ser conhecido fora das fronteiras do seu país – foi tema, aliás, de um artigo do jornal britânico Melody Maker a 5 de Fevereiro de 1977 com o título “Urs: A Major New Star”. Para tal distinção contribuiu o facto de este pianista (em “Tiegel” também a sentar-se à bateria) ter um estilo que já na altura o distanciava da generalidade dos improvisadores que lidavam com o mesmo instrumento – em vez das cascatas de notas à maneira de Cecil Taylor, tinha uma costela romântica e um especial gosto pelas baladas, mesmo que as tocasse de forma não muito convencional. Gallio tem tido igualmente um trajecto singular – colaborador ao longo dos anos de músicos tão distintos quanto Irene Schweizer, Voicecrack, Peter Kowald, Robert Dick, Fred Frith ou William Parker e mentor do grupo Day & Taxi, encontramo-lo aqui ainda muito influenciado no manejo do saxofone soprano por Steve Lacy. Hoje, continua deste o gosto pela angularidade dos fraseados, mas sem a mesma atracção pela melodia. Frey acompanhou desde sempre ao contrabaixo (e ao trombone) as aventuras de ambos, e essa empatia nota-se ao longo do presente documento. 


A work tape recorded in Zurich by three minor figures in the Swiss avant-garde -- soprano saxophonist Gallio went on to form Day & Taxi, pianist Voerkel and bassist Frey lived in a house with Irène Schweizer and other luminaries; 13 mostly short improvs, delicate, articulate, sharply drawn.


Free improvisation demands, even gets its essence from, a certain kind of excess, an overflow of ideas generated in real-time. This excess is what allows improvisations to succeed – and causes them to fail. It produces scintillating moments, and it produces tedium. What it only rarely produces is what this 1981 trio recording of 13 improvisations has in spades – compositional unity and compactness without any loss of energy to chamber politeness.

It’s got the hazy swing and knotty dynamics of Jimmy Giuffre’s pioneering drummer-less chamber improvisation and the abstract dynamics research of classic FMP records. The trio atomizes sound like more stringent free improvisers, but also retains a skeleton of composition in the background. There’s also a sense of play in the air, as the instrumental combinations keep shifting, a quality perhaps attributable to the workshop atmosphere of its birth. Urs Voerkel doubles on piano and drums, Peter K. Frey moves between bass and trombone, while Christoph Gallio plays soprano saxophone throughout.

Each piece plumbs a bundle of ideas, staying within a certain range, but not to the point of rigidity. “#1” is pushed along by an unsteady approximation of the classic walking jazz rhythm. On “#4,” Voerkel lays down bursts of snare, cymbal exclamations and chattering rimshot patterns as a frame for the sputtering dialogue between Frey (on trombone) and Gallio. “#6” is a comic, competitive dialogue swerving from legato to staccato and back. The piano dominates, with clipped, hard-edged phrases scattering into dervishes of rapid notes. On “#7,” the drummer-less trio slowly braid their independent lines into a hesitant conversation, and then, cued by Voerkel’s switch to the drum kit, segue seamlessly into the more ominous and turbulent mood of “#8.” Throughout, Voerkel is the glue, finding a way to make Gallio’s more manic upper-register moves adhere to Frey’s low-register rumbles and moans.

This session’s greatest attribute is that the average track time is around three minutes, with no fade-outs or edits. So, even when the three stretch out, like on the nine-minute “#5,” they bring order and coherence to their playing. After a passage of upper-register swipes and big low-end hits from Frey, swooping soprano sax phrases, and minimal percussion, the three fall into a rickety syncopation and almost slip into a midnight ballad mood, finally settling on a hazy swing; It’s an extended version of the trio’s method of creating spontaneous harmonies full of dissonance and conflict, not harmonies in the conventional sense, but loose underlying structures that promote, not hinder, freedom.