Improvising, with nothing pre-planned, or any discussion at all, is one of the most challenging and rewarding ways to make music. In Holland they call it instant composing. I feel lucky to be able to present some improvised music here with four master musicians whose work combines imagination, intuition, poise, humour and incredible ears.
I've been working with Michel Lambert for almost 30 years in many different contexts. His playing is reassuring yet liberating at the same time. It's difficult for me to conceive of any recording project or band without having him as the drummer. His list of credits is long and includes collaborations with Milcho Leviev, Ellery Eskelin, Rakalam Bob Moses and Raoul Björkheim.
Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink were like Batman and Robin in my childhood. My Oma used to send me photos of them clipped from the Dutch TV guide. In 1980 I attended a workshop Misha was conducting at the Music Gallery in Toronto. We asked him over for lunch with my family. Instead of flowers he brought plastic insects as a gift. And he was the only one to spot the weevils in the hot and sour soup we offered him. He peered over his glasses, paused a moment, and then finished his bowl without comment.
I first met Kenny Wheeler when he was teaching at the Banff Centre in 1984. He and drummer Eddie Marshall were the least talkative of any of the faculty but they were the two I learned most from. Kenny is also known to have a dry, understated sense of humour. Here are a couple of his sayings: "He played chorus after chorus, each one better than the next." "And at the end the lead trumpeter took everything up nearly an octave!"
Michael Stuart can play just about anything and brings his fresh, uplifting spirit to any musical situation. I knew his playing from an LP he made with the Elvin Jones Jazz Machine called "Remembrance" so it was a thrill when I finally got to work with him. His album "The Blessing" (with the great drummer Claude Ranger) is a classic. He is definitely one of my favourite musicians and people even though he always calls me "the Schwaaag".
Trio with Misha Mengelberg recorded March 24, 2002 at Studio Le Roy in Amsterdam by Mikel Le Roy
Trio with Kenny Wheeler recorded September 22, 2001 in Toronto by Reg Schwager
Trio with Michael Stuart recorded September 23, 2001 in Toronto by Reg Schwager
Mixed by Jacques Montminy, mastered by Jeff Elliott
Collages by Reg Schwager
Photos by Kiki Misumi, Walter Schwager and Reg Schwager
a review from Cadence:
REG SCHWAGER TRIO IMPROVISATIONS JAZZ FROM RANT 1245
OUT CLASS / GANDER / AFTER THOUGHT / UNDERTOW / CROSS TALK / IN SIGHT / SENSE LESS / HAMLET / DYSFUNCTIONAL HARMONY. 47:50. Reg Schwager (g), Michel Lambert (d), Misha Mengelberg (p on *), Kenny Wheeler (tpt on +), Michael Stuart (as on #). March 24, 2002, Amsterdam (*); September 22, 2001 (+) and September 22, 2001 (#), Toronto.
Schwager is a limber, versatile guitar who favors a clean tone and thoughtful close harmony state- ments. He’s unfairly unknown, and even his drumming partner on these tracks (who has recorded frequently with Francois Carrier) is comparably high profile. Hopefully these turns with star guests will raise his profile a bit, because he deserves it. There’s quote a range of material on these terse tracks, recording over several sessions. Things get started with bitty and spa- cious sound, and aptly chosen intervallic statements from the leader alongside Mengelberg and Lambert on “Out Class.” Elsewhere, Schwager showcases excel- lent tonal sympathy with Wheeler on “Gander,” the pair engaged in thoughtful commentary with tuned low toms. Schwager effectively blends into the mix with single notes but also lushly shapes Wheeler’s unmis- takable sound and phrasing. Wheeler feels his oats
on the jittery, bustling “Cross Talk,” while Schwager comps urgently in the lower register. They strike a balance between these approaches on the intense, abstract “Sense Less,” Wheeler’s lines poised just so between the telepathic interplay between Schwager and Lambert. “After Thought” is all obsessive Misha, stuttering and worrying little phrases, tapping against the confines of the music, almost like rattling code in search of an interlocutor. There’s a whiff of Bailey in Schwager’s choked chords here, and the whole works well with Lambert’s loping half-time proto swing. The pianist plays nice on the lengthy “Hamlet,” complete with a tasty unison line. And he conjures some lovely, arch harmony to open “Dysfunctional Harmony,” joined by splashy, delicate commentary from guitar and drums, ultimately arriving at an almost stately Misha ending. On “Undertow,” Stuart is darting, some- times hesitant, ragged and raspy here but fragile and wispy there, sort of like Chris Speed via Jimmy Lyons. But even more satisfying is his beautiful, slightly wounded ballad work on “In Sight.” Who knows why this took so long to get released? Fine stuff that deserves your attention.
Jason Bivins - Cadence Magazine | Jan Feb Mar 2014