Alexander von Schlippenbach, along with Peter Brötzmann and Manfred Schoof, was one of the founders of the German free jazz collective FMP Records. Like all good collectives, FMP knew how to conserve resources: the entirety of The Living Music, as well as half of Brötzmann's legendary 1969 album Nipples, was recorded by the same musicians in one day. Unlike Brötzmann's corrosive, chaotic Nipples, the six pieces on The Living Music explore the concepts of open spaces and collective improvisation at least as much as they do everyone-solos-at-once clatter. As a result, Manfred Schoof's "Wave" builds up an astounding head of steam thanks to the force of a seven-piece band all headed in the same musical direction, and there are parts of the title track that are downright contemplative, particularly a brief, fractured solo from von Schlippenbach that's more Bill Evans than Cecil Taylor. Brötzmann, of course, is the star of the album, and his spotlight comes on the second half of "Into the Staggerin," where the rest of the band lays out and Brötzmann plays a tenor solo that recalls Albert Ayler's best work in the way it combines honk-blat-phwee aggressiveness and a genuinely lyrical compositional sense. Nipples may be the more famous of these two albums, but The Living Music may well be the better.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason