ALFRED HARTH / NICOLE VAN DEN PLAS / FRANZ VOLHARD / PETER STOCK / THOMAS CREMER – 4 Januar 1970
This primeval vinyl, self-released in 300 copies, encloses the recording of a summit that took place in Frankfurt on the title’s date. It is one of the earliest episodes in Alfred Harth’s discography, all the more charming given its age – which in any case is not echoed by the material comprised, fresh-sounding to this day. Harth and drummer Thomas Cremer had met pianist Nicole Van Den Plas in 1969 at a jazz festival in San Sebastian, Spain; at the same time, the Just Music collective – also featuring cellist Franz Volhard and bassist Peter Stock – was taking shape so, in essence, the LP documents the meeting of Just Music and Van Den Plas. The latter went on to become both the saxophonist’s partner and a key element of subsequent projects, including recordings at Frankfurt Radio that involved, among others, Peter Kowald, Peter Brötzmann, Paul Lovens and Jean Van Den Plas (Nicole’s brother). In 1972, Alfred, Nicole and percussionist Sven-Ake Johansson joined their forces, giving life to E.M.T.; thus, what’s heard in 4 Januar 1970 is considered by A23H, together with the above mentioned radiophonic sessions, as an ideal link between Just Music and E.M.T.
The short extent of the program – about 34 minutes – gives perhaps only a faint idea of what these musicians were able to dream up and fabricate, placing at the forefront of the frame a true cooperative spirit not mottled by egotist spurts and haywire tendencies. This means that there’s no available room for flapdoodles: each member sounds concentrated, stable-minded, eager to actively build the muscle of the improvisation until a communal sonic fission becomes substantial, under the semblance of small nuclei of instrumental interaction and intelligible upsurges where each input – also counting Van Den Plas’ abstract vocals appearing here and there – looks for the adjustment to unexpected responses as opposed to privileging the strained alternative of an unnatural terminology. Of course, the highly skilful, persistently enlightened legerdemain of the participants is unmistakable, as not for a single instant the immediate signals seem to have been “thrown away”. Every phrase, every minute of reciprocal listening symbolizes – more than the achievement of a predetermined goal – the untouched beauty of that kind of spur-of-the-moment gestural courage that was typical of arts and musics from the late 60s and early 70s. Eras that in all probability delimited the birth – and, unhappily, the rapid death – of inner movements and structures of thought that are destined not to resurface anytime soon. In that sense, 4 Januar 1970 is as prized an article as you might find.