November 12th, 2019

News 53 (Laudatio)


Manfred Schoof

Paul Lovens:
Laudation on the occasion of the presentation of the Albert Mangelsdorff-Prize
(Deutscher Jazz Preis / German Jazz Prize) 2019

Ladies and gentlemen, dear Jazz fans,

Giving a speech in honour of a deserving colleague or a good friend - both being true in this case - is always a great honour.

Today we, the German Jazz Union, are honouring an artist whose importance on his instrument - the drums - in the area of Jazz and improvised music in general is far reaching and unique - PAUL LOVENS.

I am especially happy because I was able to accompany, observe and experience his musical development. Our first encounter took place at the ‘Akademie für musische Bildung’ in Remscheid, a state-run music facility in North Rhine-Westphalia, to which many young artists owe their successful start. In this regard, for example, the group Kraftwerk comes to mind. I had a teaching job there, as did the Dutch drummer Cees See, who was Paul's principal instructor. Paul was 17 or 18 years old and still at school. I immediately noticed him during occasional rehearsal performances and auditions. He played in that wonderfully light way of a Tony Williams or Billy Higgins. At that time, Free Jazz was not yet a determining part of his musical consciousness, because the Jazz drums functioned predominantly as a solid rhythm instrument, providing a secure basis for an orchestra and a broad, inspiring creative space for the respective soloist. From the very beginning, his creative space was a creative freedom that went far beyond the usual percussive handling of the drums.

Arnold Schönberg, the great innovator of modern music once said: “Art does not come from ability but from necessity”. This urge, this need, is already obvious at an early age in all artistically gifted people, and Paul was no exception. Paul's carefree, relaxed way of dealing with this music, of exploring it, fascinated me right from the start and when Jaki Liebezeit left the Schoof Quintet at the end of the 60s to become a member of the group Can, it was clear to me: Paul has to take over as his successor in the quintet. I think it was this ensemble that made Paul's musical talent accessible to a wider audience for the first time.

Many colleagues noticed this talent and so it was to be expected that many well-known musicians wanted to work with him. Alexander von Schlippenbach once said: “Paul went his own way early on because the drums as just a pure rhythm instrument were not enough for him.”

Of course, depending on the situation, if the idea appeals to him and he feels the urge, he can create a needle-fine, cyclic rhythm, which in its intensity enables the respective improvisation of a soloist to take off. Or he was able to create an inspiring improvisational framework for Cecil Taylor on an equal footing. I will spare myself listing all the well-known artists Paul Lovens has worked with because you can easily imagine that for yourselves.

Which brings us to his choice of instruments: The usual treatment of drums and cymbals did not do it for him. So, cymbals had to be also played with a violin bow, which gives them a strangely singing sound. Pots, bells, rattles, all sorts of small things he has come upon and found interesting, he can get them to sound.

This variety of sounds produced on all sorts of objects could confuse a less well-informed listener at times. A friend of our mutual friend Schlippenbach once summarized his auditory impression as follows: “It sounds like I'm clearing up my shed.”

Well, the idea is not so far-fetched; a well-filled shed has a certain tonal quality because the objects inside all have their own inherent musical and creative qualities as they were conceived with a certain functional necessity in mind. Paul's imagination turns them into musical instruments.

What impresses me so much about Paul's personality is his extensive knowledge of Jazz music as a whole. He is, for example, able to give you exhaustive information about all the major musical personalities who defined Jazz. And I don't doubt for a second that he can also drive a Dixieland band with a burning beat.

By the way! Paul is also the founder of a record company called PO TORCH JWD. The word ‘torch’ is no surprise, as for Paul the torch represents the beginning and awakening. The ‘JWD’, as he told me, means ‘Janz Weit Draußen’ (in the middle of nowhere). His way of life shows itself in many ways, because has chosen his living environments in accordance with his current family or musical necessity.

He is simply a cosmopolitan. He was born in Aachen, a city where he still lives today and where he took his first musical steps. Paul Lovens is a charming man and so it is not surprising that he has two splendid children, Jonas and Anselma, the latter from a longer relationship in Genova. For some time now, however, he has had his main residence in Nickelsdorf, Austria, with his Lisa, as he says. An eventful, a rich life.

And so, we come to the here and now:

Paul Lovens is still a busy, much sought-after artist who, in addition to his solo work, has two main musical anchors. Namely as motor of the Globe Unity Orchestra and in the trio of Alexander von Schlippenbach, together with the English saxophonist Evan Parker.

What he always has with him are his drum shoes, once a pair of well-made shoes that he wore for decades only for playing, but which are now so tattered that he still carries them in his suitcase, as a symbol, so to speak. For magical reasons, as he says.

Paul Lovens has left his mark and will continue to do so. Hopefully we will be able to experience his art for a long time to come.

Congratulations, Paul Lovens!