© Fotos: Roberto Masotti


FMP FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION as the Center of Contemporary Jazz Development

Patrick Landolt

Today, the musicians from the circle of Berlin's FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION (FMP) - the bassist Peter Kowald, the saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, the pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, the guitarist Hans Reichel, to only name a few - are counted among the most important renewers of jazz. Up until the 70's, exclusively the names of American musicians stood for the music called jazz: Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman... Music critics conceived of the development of jazz through temporally limited jazz styles and placed it in the cultural context of the USA.
At the end of the 60's and begin of the 70's, a new development began, which the writer and music publicist Wilhelm E. Liefland at that time interpreted as a "radical break in jazz music". The use of creative procedures, employed by avantguarde movements, from different cultures, genres and eras brought forth an opening that changed jazz. Instead of developing linearly, jazz today reveals the coexistence of the most dissimilar styles and innovatory directions. What, for example, the pioneers from FMP introduced at the end of the 60's has developed into a manysided and differentiated music: a first inventory, from EUROPAS JAZZ 1960 bis 1980 (published by Fischer Verlag), written by the music critic and saxophonist Ekkehard Jost, presents more than 50 internationally recognized musicians. In his KLANGSPUREN. WEGE IMPROVISIERTER MUSIK (Sound Traces: Paths of Improvised Music, also Fischer Verlag) the music publicist Bert Noglik sums up the process of the last twenty years: "Jazz, an Afro-American idiom according to ist origin, has developed to a musical world language".
The Berlin of FMP ist one of the most important centers that has made this process possible, thereby threatening to surpass the ‚Big Apple' New York. FMP has been substantially involved in the development of this music. With both of ist supporting structures, Concerts/Festivals and Record/CD-Production (and additionally since January 1st 2000 an independent company solely for distribution & marketing, FMP FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION Distribution & Communication, headed by Helma Schleif, editor's remark) it has distinctly helped mould the development of contemporary jazz in Europe. Ist transmission is large. As a whole, numerous reasons make up the importance of Free Music Production:
1. Production and Documentation of Current Music History
FMP is an institution that presents contemporrary jazz music live and simultaneously documents it, something practically no other promoter or producer in Europe has succeeded in doing. (The list of the artists' names which FMP has presented live in Berlin and published on recordings is long and speaks in a clear language. Indeed, the catalogue of FMP is one of the artistically most valuable catalogues of current jazz. Also of great artistic importance are the photography and recorded archives of FMP (All photography executed by Dagmar Gebers).

2. Continuity and Experience
Through its 30-year tradition, FMP has at ist disposal an extensive amount of experience and competence. The festivals are carefully conceived, eventful and qualitatively distinguished, and the records/CDs are very professionally produced. Both audibly as well as visually, the records and CDs of FMP are designed aesthetically.

3. Berlin as a Center
In the years of ist existence, FMP has become a center for European music. Musicians from Germany, England, France, Holland, and Switzerland as well as from the USA regularly perform in Berlin. The continuous musical exchange is a prerequisite for an esthetic development towards an autnomous music. At the same time, Berlin's public enjoys, at the regularly occurring concerts, the ability to constantly follow the development of this music.

4. Worldwide Cultural Exchange
Throughout the years, FMP has cultivated the exchange of West European jazz with East-European and American jazz. Regarding this, highlights include, from the 70's, the concerts and recordings with musicians from the GDR, and, at the beginning of the 90's, the large scale presentation and CD production of Cecil Taylor, the most well-known pianist of new jazz in the USA.
5. Personal Initiative and Expert Knowledge
Behind FMP stands, as with every artistically sucessful institution, an innovative head: for years, the producer Jost Gebers has been leading the fortune of this artistic enterprise with expert knowledge, personal initiative and amazing endurance.
Without doubt, one can certainly say that FMP has contributed significantly to the development of today's jazz music. It is not only through the performance of FMP that names of musicians - such as Peter Brötzmann, Peter Kowald, Hans Reichel, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Rüdiger Carl, Albert Mangelsdorff, Paul Lovens - are well known in the international music world and count amon the great performers of today's jazz. At the same time, one must also thank FMP that, from Zurich to London, Prague to Moscow, and New York to Tokyo, Berlin is known throughout the music world as a city of openness, international exchange and artistic innovation.

Patrick Landolt is the cultural editor of the ‚WochenZeitung' in Zurich; Zurich Journalist Award 1992. He has published among others: ‚The Laughing Outsiders: Musicians between Jazz, Rock and New Music. The 80's and 90's', edited by Rotpunkt Verlag, Zurich.