AMM with the Gunter Hampel Group
March 26th 1972
Deutsches Jazzfestival, Frankfurt Germany

This is without a doubt the single strangest recording in my AMM archives. It basically is a huge jazz group that ranges from bop to fairly free with AMM buried somewhere in there. Prévost seem relatively content with to throw in some serious drumming along with his more percussive work, and Gare mixes his sound oriented sax with some more tonal lines. The first time I heard this I just assumed this was the duo AMM, which as they broke up in early 1972 made sense. But on doing some research and some close listening it does seem that Rowe and Cardew are present. Rowe seems to be laying out or perhaps just completely buried for nearly the first half, but then those scrabbling manipulated pickups of his can be heard coming and going depending on how much else is played. As for Cardew, well it’s impossible to really say, there does seem to be some of his dry bowing now and again, but impossible to say that it wasn’t the bass player or even another instrument.  March 26th 1972, is right on the cusp of the disintegration of the quartet AMM; by the end of the month Rowe would have left the group with Cardew to follow shortly.

What is particularly bizarre about this recording is that if it is the quartet AMM it seems diametrically opposed to all that they espoused. The jazz that they had turned away from is the primary form here with continuous scatting from Jeanne Lee dominating this performance. Evan Parkers playing is a bit more sympathetic to AMM but here it leans toward tonal lines or fiery blasts, two poles this group swings wildly from as if they were a revue of the last decade of jazz. Rowe’s completely non-idiomatic guitar just sounds like noise on the tape and I suspect would be dismissed as such by your average jazz fan. Speaking of which your average jazz fan, one who could find nothing to like about AMM could get right behind this recording.

All in Together Now (G. Hampel)
Günter Christmann (trombone); Gunter Hampel (soprano sax, bass clarinet); Lou Gare (tenor sax); Evan Parker (soprano sax, tenor sax); Perry Robinson (clarinet); Alexander Von Schlippenbach (piano); Cornelius Cardew (cello); Keith Rowe (guitar, etc.); J.B. “Buschi” Niebergall (bass); Eddie Prévost (drums, percussion, etc.); Jeanne Lee (vocals); Unknown (announcer)

The recording begins with an intro in German that announces AMM “from London” and then the members of the Gunter Hampel group.  The music comes right up with a bit of brushes on a ride cymbal and then some piano chords kick in. Melodic sax line over the top of this and then a bit of vamping background sax.  A bit of discord between the saxes and then everybody is playing in this swirling miasma of sound. Very free jazz, nothing super out but only loosely connected. And then begins the vocalizations. Jeanne does either abstract vocalizations or scatting for pretty much the rest of the set with only a few short breaks. Lots of right up front drumming, a feature that runs through the bulk of the set it no matter how abstract it gets. The drums and the vocalizations are a constant and it really grounds the piece and keeps it from exploring new territory. Trumpet bleats come and go, some odd squiggles in the background, probably from Gare. Around thirteen minutes in things mellow way out, with the drumming at its most sedate, long vocalizations from Jeanne, and drawn out tones on the horns. But as is always the case in free jazz the mellow parts just serve to emphasize the active parts and it picks right back up with wailing sax, maddening drums and vocal wailing.  This continues apace for some time, leading to a section with some real upfront scatting. Then another drop out, with just some cymbal work, low volume snare rolls (Prevost?), sax squeaks (Gare?) and a splattering of piano, under the scatting.

Finally she drops out and it is just piano and very quiet trombone. Some bass plucking comes into this, almost a solo with scattered drums and a almost mechanical sound very quiet. Some electronic-ish sounding squiggles, the first obvious sign that Rowe is actually present. Then the scatting comes back up. The electronic scrabbling becomes a bit more aggressive, piano now being constantly played, though fairly low in the mix, Gare style abstract sax-work also fairly quiet. After this more down-tempo, almost AMM-ish interlude things explode again. Off the hook trombone, the scatting fast and furious, piano chords being pounded out, a drum “solo” level freakout, scrabbling on the guitar a total miasma of sound. Very dense now, the vocals drop out and there is some serious sax work. recognizable as Parker. Then as the vocals come back in, everything drops out but piano tinkling and a low plaintive horn. A lazy baseline drifts through, a bit of scrabbling guitar. One sax line comes in, then goes, then another and so on. Runs on the piano, some skronks and squeaks, the scatting now right up front and rather guttural. The energy isn’t so high but everyone seems to be coming back in for one last go around as the piece is in it’s final minutes. The track then ends with just as honking horn as Jeanne gives us a “Thank you very much”. Then applause and one last bit of sax probably from Parker.

This recording really raises far more questions then I have answers for. It could be that at this festival the organizers threw all these people together in the end for a “large group” and they all played along. Perhaps in the end this quote from John Tilbury is what we have to be satisfied by:

“Sometimes, when other people play with us, and because it’s a little bit unfamiliar to them, they’ll do something, and I think, ‘Well, what do you do when somebody does something that you don’t like?’ You can’t go up to them and say, ‘Don’t play that!’ You have to somehow take them by the hand and lead them somewhere else – but then why should you even do that? Maybe they don’t like what you’re doing, so who am I to judge? That’s not just a musical question, that’s also an ethical question.”

-John Tilbury (3)

Thanks to Brian Olewnick for further information about this period of AMM.

Addendeum January 30th 2009:

I have since discovered that this was the final AMM performance. In John Tilbury’s fantastic Cornelius Cardew biography he quotes from Cardew’s journals where he states that the final AMM show was March 26th, 1972 at the Frankfurt Jazz festival (7, p. 651)

1) Gunter Hampel:  Website, Wikipedia
2) Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
3) Meta Machine Music, Rob Young, The Wire Issue #132 (February 1995)
4) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995
5) The AMM page at the European Free Improvisation Home
6) Keith Rowe interview by Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic
7) John Tilbury, Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished, Copula 2008