Paul Lovens
Paul Lovens

Paul Lovens

About Paul Lovens

Sporting a black suit and tie no matter what the occasion or outside temperature, German drummer Paul Lovens is a much-loved and highly respected presence on the European improvising scene, and since the mid-'90s, has also begun performing regularly in the United States as interest in the art of European improvisers increased stateside. Much of Lovens' lifestyle and philosophy seem linked to his father, an accountant who passed away when his son was still a young boy. A few weeks after the funeral, Lovens recalls seeing some drums in a shop window, pointing them out to his mother and saying something to the effect of "This is what I want. This is what I want to do."
Although influenced by beat and British Invasion music, Lovens quickly fell into playing jazz, beginning with the traditional variety but quickly spreading into modern adventurism as the music of the '60s began to present itself as a reflection of the rebellious, liberating spirit of those times. A major early influence was the Dutch multi-instrumentalist Han Bennink, one of the great drummers in jazz. Lovens recalls that even when he technically could not play in the manner of Bennink, he did what he could by at least imitating Bennink's appearance, including getting his head shaved close in the manner of the Dutchman and wearing the same style of pants as him.
One of the earliest collaborative groups involved Lovens in a trio with Berlin pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach and British saxophonist Evan Parker, and this turned into one of the longest-running steady groups in jazz, celebrating its 29th anniversary in 2001. The trio tours at least once every year and has released more than a dozen albums, some in a quartet setting with the addition of American bassist Alan Silva. The playing of Lovens in this setting is very typical of his musical approach. The drums are not only in their expected traditional jazz role as underpinning for saxophone, piano, or other normally perceived soloing instruments, Lovens frequently cuts above the rest of the band using techniques such as grinding the tip of a drumstick into the face of the cymbal, or he creates fascinating sound textures using notched wooden blocks, horse combs, and other paraphernalia. His sensitive improvisation techniques and great ability at interplay have placed him constantly in demand as a partner in improvising groups, and since the early '70s, he has worked with a who's-who of European improvisers such as bassist Peter Kowald, who 30 years later still picked Lovens as his favorite rhythm section partner, the large Globe Unity Orchestra under the direction of Schlippenbach, Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustaffson, trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, bassist Joelle Leandre, and many others.
In the mid-'70s he began his own vinyl label imprint, Po Torch, releasing a series of percussion duets with British drummer Paul Lytton, among other projects. Meticulous attention was paid to packaging and artwork, and one result was the album The Last Supper, a duet with Kondo, being chosen for a hard-cover coffee table volume collection of artistic album covers. In the late '80s, Lovens performed with American freejazz giant Cecil Taylor as part of a series of collaborations involving Taylor with various European improvisers. This led to several years in the drum seat of the Taylor combo, climaxing in the entire band basically getting fired onstage in New York in 2000, a typical event in this fiery pianist's career, but one that left Lovens deeply disappointed.
He continues reinventing himself and broadening his horizons, and in 1996 formed the duo Me and Paul with guitarist, banjo player, and vocalist Eugene Chadbourne. Proceeding in his usual manner and playing in pretty much the same style as he uses with all his groups, Lovens figured out a way to accompany bluegrass, country, rock, and swing standards without compromising the freedom that is the essence of his art. And, in a very real tribute to the father he misses so much, Lovens does all the accounting for every grouping he performs with. ~ Eugene Chadbourne