FMP-RECORDS (FMP-Numbers) 1969 - 1991

FMP 1260
FMP 1270
FMP 1280

Peter Kowald


I got the idea for the DUOS in 1986 after a year in New York. I had made so many new musical acquaintances and friends that I wanted to see/hear some of them on record. There were various ways of doing this. I decided on duo pieces of four to five minutes length. Because of the time restriction imposed by records of the time, this meant recording with ten partners. America so far and so good - it seemed natural to involve my year-long work with European friends. I had only made recordings with some of them before, but never in duo formation. And during my four visits to Japan I had not only met Free Jazz musicians, but also those who played traditional Japanese music. In this way the project grew to become what it is today: tree records, each featuring ten pieces with an average length of just over four minutes - "DUOS EUROPA - AMERICA - JAPAN". And a CD with nineteen pieces, sixteen being alternative versions of the pieces on the records, and three being identical. Where the alternative versions are the same pieces and a similar structure, they have the same title and are marked I and II. Where they develop to become a completely new piece, they are given a different title. The recordings were made over a period of more than six years - the first in1984, most in 1986, the last in1990.

Some pieces are improvised, others structured (as mentioned before), and a few are composed. We improvised in the widest sense of the word in that neither of us knew what was in store for us. This was so with Joëlle, Matsuda, Diamanda, Irène, Tom, Sawai, Derek, Midorikawa and Danny. The pieces played with Evan, Conny (first part), Andrew, Sakata, Kono, Brötzmann, Floros, Han and Junko Handa were structured in the sense that ideas/sounds/melodies were used to spark off the improvisations. This happened either verbally or by each playing his ideas - something which could be called structured improvisation. Not much was composed: the melody following on the first part by Conny Bauer in "Bein auf Stein" and Jeanne Lee's "In These Last Days". Probably the long middle section of "Power Without Power II" by Junko Handa is also composed. It is presumably a non variable melody.

The way in which we improvise together, as has been practiced by certain musicians in Europe, the USA and Japan since the sixties (and, more rarely, in other parts of the world) does no always start out with the same preconditions. Sometimes the musicians know each other well - as, for example, in our case Brötzmann, Irène and Evan have known each other for twenty years - other musicians do not know each other well, and some not at all. We all work with routines (in the good and in the bad sense) which we constantly re-examine, alter, expand and relate a new whilst playing. Because of our experience and common method, we can even play together without knowing each other at all (as with Matsuda, Galas, Sakata, Kono and Sawai). Junko Hand is an exception. She plays traditional music and is not an improviser as we know it. She has, however, opened her approach to such an extent that we were able to combine our different backgrounds.

The bass is usually an equal partner but sometimes reverts to its traditional function of accompanist as in the bass part in "In These Last Days", the pedal bass with Galas and Matsuda, or the routine favored by me with accented octaves and low singing (here with Cyrille, Handa and Mazur). I enjoy playing this so much, and have played it so often, that it has almost become a composition in itself. Anyway, I remain more in the background in some pieces - I am involved in every piece and each partner only plays once. The recordings have different origins. The first (with Kosugi in 1984 before the DUOS had even been thought of) and the last (with Julius Hemphill in 1990) are excerpts of live concerts in the Berlin "Akademie der Künste". The pieces with Irène and Joëlle in the FMP studio are also live recordings. All other pieces were planned for this project and recorded in studios without an audience.

Translation: Margaret Neuendorf

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