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Swiss jazz pianist and improviser Irène Schweizer began her career in the early 1960s as a hardbop stylist, before encountering South Africans such as pianist and composer Dollar Brand at the African Jazz Cafe in Zurich. The final, crucial influences to her style were free players such as saxophonist Peter Brötzmann; as she told an interviewer in 1997, ‘We got tired of playing changes and rhythm’ – she meant jazz grooves. ‘We just left all these systems behind.’

Before this solo recital in celebration of her 70th birthday, recorded live at the Tonhalle Zürich, the city’s classical concert hall, Schweizer confessed that this was ‘not my kind of ambience’. But that’s not apparent here, as the pianist brings together all the elements of her style, beginning at the freer end of the spectrum. She took care to assemble a programme, but that was her sole concession to planning; in other respects the music shows a committed improviser’s love of spontaneity.

The improvisations are succinct and never outstay their welcome. The South African influence is clear in the pianist’s own compositions Jungle Beat III and Homage to Don Cherry – as well, obviously, in Dollar Brand’s Xaba. Thelonious Monk’s Four in One looks back to the music that inspired her early career. In Carla Bley’s rarely heard Ida Lupino, dedicated to the Hollywood actress and director, Schweizer provides a more gently lilting version than the classic interpretation by Paul Bley. The Train and The River, which I’ve never heard on piano, gets a striking recomposition. A superb release.

ANDY HAMILTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Piano International, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing