Erich Steiger floated into my purview during a hazy period and almost as quickly as he appeared…I was gone. Moving just down the way but into a whole different scene and having different experiences. As time began to strip away the refuse from our lives Erich’s creative contributions and intentions became more and more clear. Mr. Steiger’s growing expertise lies in his ability to survive the stripping away of excess and to emerge clear and intoxicating through the distillation of audio. Whether it be culling through hours of improvisation for those gems and then polishing them up or taking a finished product and proving it is not quite done yet by adding subtle but astonishing final touches…it is this distillation process I keep finding Erich through.
Erich’s name has cropped up recently on many recording sessions and concert recordings happening at the 2640 space in Baltimore, MD. He keeps himself pretty busy these days doing mastering and recording for a variety of different projects as well as his own trio HMS. However he found some moments to send over this mysterious work he calls Avant Forte. An absolutely massive collection of 34 tracks documenting piano improvisation. Recorded under the radar and without authorization at facilities at a local college these recordings find Mr. Steiger feeling right at home. The tension I expected to hear given the recording environment are nowhere to be found, in fact he must have taken his time just given the sheer number of these tracks!
Numbers and location aside the stripping away and distillation I have come to appreciate so much about Mr. Steiger is evident here. Many a musician has sat down in front of the piano and hammered out improvisation covering wide ground from slow and somber all the way to jumping inside the beast and plucking at it’s soul therefore we must look past these simple physical facts and look at the man and his intentions. If one were to sit in a trio with Erich it would be clear right away what can be appreciated in his playing, his approach to guitar carries over seamlessly to the piano and sparks excitement.
Since all of you reading this are not so lucky as to have these trio sessions I will again march back around to his process. He finds the right moments and lines them up for you. When there is a moment missing he plucks it from his pocket and presents it to you. And when you have taken too many moments he takes one back with force. Tracks 4 and 5 speak to these actions with the most clarity. Tracks 2,4 and 5 are what I like to call “Pure Steiger”. After track 5 it becomes difficult for me to assign adjectives to the tracks or provide a sober recollection of them…I become lost in the sea and am not scared of drowning.
My suggestion for how to digest such a lengthy collection is to just suck it up….Stop living your life so quickly and take the time…I don’t care if you have to put it on your damn ipod and listen to it on your useless subway ride…bring this thing into your life.
It should be noted this was recorded onto a VCR at the York College of Pennsylvania (located of course in York, PA) on April 3, 2003.There was a previous session with Ira & Victoria Schneider and Erich, which led to this solo session that was recorded a couple weeks later. They hatched the idea to invade to York College music rooms, and use the baby grand. A couple weeks after that first recording with them he returned to YCP, to capture some solo expressions.