Tag Archives: Evan Parker

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

Cologne’s Loft is a venue where very good things usually happen when improvising musicians perform. This stellar duet between sax maestros is no exception: recorded in 2007, it features Parker on soprano and Leimgruber on tenor, exchanging darts of creative thinking with a mixture of snappy commitment and no-nonsense technical facility, prowess made explicit in every minute of this CD. Three extended segments revealing a whole cosmos of nuances that will make the students of the instrument aware of a depressing perspective: in fact, they might never arrive to certain heights decades of practice notwithstanding, in a classic case of “some folks got it, some folks don’t”. However, the sheer act of listening – both for them and non-reedist audiences – remains a challenge that brings numerous moments of pure excitement. In 66 minutes I didn’t hear a phrase even distantly related with someone else’s style, despite the couple’s occasional resorting to quicksilver spurts of reciprocally echoic/imitative shapes in various parts of the set. Another attractive trait is given by the general comprehensibility of the contrapuntal components, regardless of a frequent trespassing of the overacute range. Articulate connectedness kept at full throttle, pushing the boundaries of fast-paced ability well beyond the average. As always, one would say, but still quite exhilaratingly for us, the lucky receivers of those swirling parallelisms.

Touching Extremes review by Massimo Ricci

PARKER / GUY / LYTTON + PETER EVANS – Scenes In The House Of Music (CF 196) 
This record – born in September 2009 at Casa Da Música (hence the title) – is permeated by a striking forthrightness parallelling the equally impressive dexterity and improvisational fantasy of each of the contributing musicians. Consisting of five “scenes” (plus an encore not indicated on the cover), it is initially a tough nut to crack – no concessions whatsoever, no winks to the audience – but once the essence of the interplay is finally visible, one almost gets a sense of invincibility, of being shielded by some kind of superior power. This feel is reinforced by the awareness of sounds generated by unbending characters who have no intention of giving up a strenuous fight against the “exhaustion by stereotype” syndrome. The way in which the augmented trio rotates extreme collective intensity and large spaces for the actions of single components is pure delight for these ears.

There is a deceptive prevalence in the mix by the duo of forwards. Parker on the left, tenor and soprano saxes achieving a perfect balance of bulkiness and bright-minded quarrelsomeness, Evans on the right, alternating solitary quacks and hysteric shrieks to the everlasting research for unusual combinations and successions of peculiar physical events. Yet an expert listener immediately realizes that without the remaining factors the music wouldn’t be at the same level of acoustic heftiness and unequivocal originality. Guy’s absolute domination of the low-frequency area through a wooden beast manipulated like a painter’s brush is a vision itself, his solo at the beginning of the fourth chapter a confirmation of a not enough sung magnitude. Lytton is precious and modest, never too much at the mix’s vanguard. Still, there’s no mistaking those incessant anti-rhythms and spastic fragments with negligence, an inalienable percussive creativity lying at the basis of an abnormal type of propulsion that benefits the entire group’s vibrancy.

The New York City Jazz Record review by Andrey Henkin

Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio – Bauhaus Dessau (Intakt)
Uwe Oberg/Evan Parker – Full Bloom (Jazzwerkstatt)
Evan Parker/Sten Sandell – Psalms (psi)
Evan Parker/Urs Leimgruber – Twine (Clean Feed)
Evan Parker  – Whitstable Solos (psi)
British saxophonist Evan Parker is just a few years away from his Jubilee Celebration as his country’s most celebrated jazz export. What has contributed to such remarkable longevity – particularly consideringhe inhabits the punishing avant garde sphere – is that he has been international in scope and omnivorous instyle since almost the very beginning. He’s a founding father or elder statesman in theory; in practice, he plays with the same curiosity as he did at the outset. His most stable outlet has been in a trio led by pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach with drummer Paul Lovens. Bauhaus Dessau, named for the German art center where this 2009 concert took place, is the latest in a mini-flurry of releases since 2003 by the group, which has existed for over 40 years, making itone of the longest-standing free-improvising ensembles in history. Few marriages last as long. And like a successful marriage, there is a delicate balance between knowing someone more than intimately and still being surprised by them. The three tracks, in descending lengths of 41, 12 and 9 minutes, featuring Parker solely on hefty tenor, both capture a particularly fine moment and represent a blip in their trajectory, a strange tension between history and ephemerality percolating with each moment. Three duos represent how Parker works in small groups of lesser pedigree than the Schlippenbach Trio. He maintains his personality but becomes magnanimous in how he applies himself. German pianist Uwe Oberg, 18 years Parker’s junior, firmly inhabits the world of European and international improvising Parker helped create. He is a far different player than Schlippenbach, often solemn and pastor also Parker’s tenor on Full Bloom sets aside some of its stridency for exultant beauty. Younger players looking for a sax tone to emulate should listen to this wonderfully recorded disc as a paragon. And since Oberg works in spacious, delicate movement, a kinder, gentler Parker emerges and details in his approach that might go unnoticed elsewhere are clearly audible.

Another pianist with whom Parker has worked with some frequency within the past decade is Swede Sten Sandell. He’s joined Parker’s trio with Barry Guy and Paul Lytton and both appear in drummer Paal Nilssen-Love’s Townhouse Orchestra. For the aptly-titled Psalms, recorded in the North Sea-side town of Whitstable, Sandell is behind the St. Peter’s organ matched against Parker’s tenor. Sandell is to becommended for even being able to improvise on such an unwieldy instrument. The combination of floating organ and rich saxophone is an unusual one, often sounding alien or fit for piping into a Surrealist art exhibition. One would require a very progressive congregation to hear the piety in these searching, slow-moving pieces.

Twine is an odd entry into Parker’s discography. Not because it is a saxophone duo, a format he has visited intermittently, but because his partner is Swiss tenor and soprano saxist Urs Leimgruber. To the untrained ear and perhaps even the trained one, Parker and Leimgruber’s approach to their shared instrumentsis very similar: overtones, circular breathing, plangents quawks. Leimgruber’s career started about a decade after Parker’s and one imagines the older player was a great influence. As such, we have a very different interaction than Parker’s previous meetings with, say, Steve Lacy or Joe McPhee. Instead of two distinct voices or sharp color contrast, the pair explore almost 67 minutes of grey, tones and breaths floating by, over, under, through each other, less a conversation than a series of oblique echoes.

Parker is back in Whitstable for his 13th solo saxophone disc since he began exploring the format inthe late ‘70s. It has been remarked that Parker’s solo playing, especially on soprano as is found here, is one long improvisation across the decades. Certainly it is a connecting thread as Parker moves from blustery trio to large ensemble to duos to recent interest in electronics. His solo playing is like a chef’s signature dish, minutely altered and transmogrified over the years, a dash more spice here, a longer broil there. What makes this particular serving special is the acoustic profile Parker gets from the rural church, the partner with which he duets. Whitstable Solos is not adefining statement but another footprint in Parker’s long and fascinating journey.

Improjazz reviews by Luc Bouquet and Gary May

SoJazz review by Thierry Lepin

JazzWord review by Kan Waxman

Urs Leimgruber/Evan Parker – Twine (CF 194)
The International Nothing – Less Action, Less Excitement, Less Everything (Ftarri 219)
Setting up some of the most difficult interface imaginable here – two unaccompanied reed duos – are two veteran improvisers and two younger players all of whom manage to extract panoramic timbres from their respective instruments. One common strategy is to avoid harmonic unison in favor of broken octaves or double counterpoint tropes. The side-by-side variants revealed are particularly fascinating when both musicians are play saxophones in one case, or clarinets in the other.

Nonetheless sonic supremacy shouldn’t surprise in the case of British saxophonist Evan Parker and his Swiss counterpart Urs Leimgruber on Twine. Present at the birth of Euro Improv in the mid-1960s, Parker has maintained impeccable standards since then, working with other first generation players such as bassist Barry Guy and pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach as well as a clutch of increasingly younger experimenters. A little short of a decade younger, Leimgruber was initially a members of the Fusion band OM, graduating in the 1980s to more abstract improvisations which he now specializes in, working with confreres ranging from French bassist Joëlle Léandre to German synthesizer player Thomas Lehn.

A generation removed from the saxophonists, the members of The International Nothing, German clarinetists Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke, are committed to pure abstraction, as well as more melody-based projects. Thieke, for instance, is a member of Dok Wallach, a Charles Mingus tribute band, and both play with singer Margareth Kammerer and electronic manipulator/vocalist Christof Kurzmann. Fagaschinski’s flirtation with restrained lap-top sounds also ally him with reductionist sounds. In fact while the Twine duo appears preoccupied with the energetic output of high-pitched, fortissimo and staccato timbres, the improvising on Less Action, Less Excitement, Less Everything – true to its title – slides and sluices around enervated tones, with the doubled tessitura sometimes masked by extended silences.

Occasionally reflecting the clarinets’ wooden properties, most of Fagaschinski’s and Thieke’s layered reed tones are solid and almost unbreakable. While chromatic and undulating, the double counterpoint is more moderato than agitato and except for bursts of forte shrilling, deftly expressed in mid-range tones. Polytonality abounds, with pitch vibrations occasionally taking on pipe-organ-like cohesion, and on every track, diminishing into near-inaudibility for a short period before a final variant bubbles to the sonic surface. Only rarely as well do the two lines separate either, with one becoming nearly mellow and the other sharply staccato.

“Crystal Clear Fog” is a fine example of this approach. Not only do the initial lines undulate in unison as they move infinitesimally up the scale, but one clarinetist manages to sound a grace note with almost trumpet-like in construction and another as if woodwind trills are refracting back from a piano’s innards. Eventually it appears as if the pressurized tones are constantly spilling outwards until they reach an almost lighter-than-air stasis. Following a short interlude of air being forced through two body tubes, harmonized reed chirping is mutated into strident chromaticism as the finale.

Despite this instance, the vast majority of the dual clarinetists’ timbres are gentle undulations compared to the extruded shrieks, peeps and jagged false-register runs that characterize the Parker-Leimgruber interface. Over the course of three lengthy selections, the two shift effortlessly from tenor to soprano saxophones, although it’s never clear which alternative is in use at any one time. Occasionally operating in lockstep, but more frequently like yelping dogs chasing one another, their circling timbres encompass an army of extended techniques. There are staccatissimo cries and reed bites, verbalized squeaks, lip smacks, flutter tones and tongue slaps, splayed textures and vector movements. If one player strays towards lyricism, the other’s response is splintered and staccato. And circular breathing is used to mark timbral shifts.

The two stretch their tessitura as early as “Twine”, and continue spluttering and squeaking with advanced circular tones and partially illuminated tinctures all the way to the final “Twist”. Sluicing and side-slipping into double counterpoint, with spaced puffs, honks and bell-muting tones definitely attributable to one nor the other, neither overshadows the other. Jagged reed bites taken fortissimo sometimes expose metal friction, while linear rows of ghost notes, key percussion and spetrofluctuation mirror, without copying, each other’s lines. Exhibiting the rhythmic power available from two reeds blowing at full force on “Twine”, the dissonance created by this furious overtone interplay implies additional lines then those from two sound sources. Eventually the vocalized and vibrating reed tones reach a peak of strangled cries and tongue slaps before slipping away to silence.

Meeting the doubled reed challenge in their own fashion, appreciation for each – or both – of these CDs depends only on the listeners’ preferences for pacing and dissonance.

Publico Best of 2010 List by Rodrigo Amado and Nuno Catarino

Melhores Ano Público – 2010 – Escolhas de Rodrigo Amado e Nuno Catarino

1 Sara Serpa / Ran Blake “Camera Obscura” (Inner Circle)
Longe da previsibilidade e artifício da maioria das cantoras jazz actuais, Sara Serpa dá um enorme salto artístico e afirma-se como uma das mais interessantes cantoras da actualidade. Em duo com Ran Blake, um enorme pianista que é um dos segredos mais bem guardados do jazz, assina um registo poderoso, mágico e vibrante, que evoca os grandes criadores do jazz vocal. Disco revelação do jazz nacional 2010. RA

2 Vandermark 5 “The Horse Jumps and The Shipp is Gone” (Not Two) Gravado ao vivo no clube Green Mill de Chicago, este novo registo do saxofonista Ken Vandermark é uma bomba! O saxofonista pega na sua mais celebrada formação, os Vandermark 5, e junta-lhes dois convidados de excepção; o trompetista Magnus Broo e o pianista Havard Wiik. Um equilíbrio notável entre forma e improvisação e uma atitude “take-no-prisoners” dá origem a uma música orgânica, visceral e urgente. Registo internacional do ano. RA

3 Fight the Big Bull – All is Gladness in the Kingdom (Clean Feed)
O decateto americano conta aqui com a participação do trompetista Steven Bernstein e elabora um dos mais originais discos dos últimos anos. Assente numa forte vertente composicional, a música do grupo abre alas à inspiração dos instrumentistas, sempre direccionados por um permanente sentido colectivo. Com o auxílio de Bernstein o colectivo dá mais um grande passo em frente. NC

4 Mike Pride’s From Bacteria to Boys “Betweenwhile” (Aum Fidelity) Mike Pride é, há muito, um subversivo agitador do jazz nova-iorquino. Em “Betweenwhile” reúne um quarteto explosivo que opera entre o passado e o futuro do jazz, como se de um jogo se tratasse. A seu lado, Peter Bitenc, Alexis Marcelo e o saxofonista Darius Jones, uma das grandes revelações dos últimos anos. Fogo, elegância e contenção, num registo descrito com jazz de vanguarda soul. RA

5 Red Trio – Red Trio (Clean Feed)
Revelaram-se em disco, mas não só. Para o Red Trio – Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano), Hernâni Faustino (contrabaixo) e Gabriel Ferrandini (bateria) – este 2010 foi um ano imparável: aclamação internacional, concertos em grandes salas (nacionais e internacionais) e colaborações com convidados de peso (como John Butcher ou Nate Wooley). Improvisando na constante busca de formas sonoras imprevisíveis, o trio encarnado desenvolve uma música única. Que o futuro seja deles. NC

6 Little Women “Throat” (Aum Fidelity)
Jazz com espírito punk, free com disciplina prog. Os Little Women – quarteto de Darius Jones, Travis Laplante, Andrew Smiley e Jason Nazary – apresentam um dos mais inclassificáveis discos que o ano viu nascer, um disco que vira o jazz de pernas para o ar, que mostra uma música barulhenta e irresistível, que explora os limites, que se materializa em múltiplas explosões de energia. NC

7 The Bad Plus – Never Stop (E1)
O irreverente trio de Ethan Iverson, Reid Anderson e David King confirma finalmente aquilo que já muitos desconfiavam: estes moços não são apenas capazes de boas (e divertidas) versões de temas rock/pop, são também capazes de fazer uma música intensíssima, enérgica e original, que não deve nada a ninguém. Este é o primeiro disco que não inclui temas alheios e ao que parece estes já não fazem falta nenhuma. NC

8 Rudresh Mahanthappa and Steve Lehman “Dual Identity” (Clean Feed) Dois saxofonistas, virtuosos e inovadores, tentam desvendar os códigos do futuro do jazz. Com uma abordagem altamente pessoal e acompanhados por três grandes músicos – Liberty Ellman, Matt Brewer e Damion Reid – destilam um jazz intenso, angular e complexo, e constroem uma entidade musical abstracta que se apresenta como o paradigma do jazz moderno. RA

9 Parker/Guy/Lytton + Peter Evans – Scenes in the House of Music (Clean Feed) Constituindo um dos mais celebrados trios do jazz improvisado europeu, Evan Parker, Barry Guy e Paul Lytton são três gigantes que garantiram há muito um lugar de destaque na história do jazz moderno. Neste disco, registo de um concerto memorável na Casa da Música, convidam o extraordinário trompetista Peter Evans e formam um quadrado perfeito, impressionista e caleidoscópico. Aquilo que mais se aproxima de uma pura magia sonora. RA

10 Henry Threadgill Zooid “This Brings Us To Vol.2” (Pi)
A aventura criativa de Threadgill continua. Com Zooid, o seu notável projecto para o novo século, realiza explorações de timbre, estrutura e instrumentação. No seu universo, o de um verdadeiro músico dos músicos, nada é o que parece. Em múltiplos planos de percepção, cruzam-se jazz de vanguarda, blues, música contemporânea, jazz latino e muita improvisação, estruturada e consistente como poucas. RA

11 Paul Motian Trio “Lost in a Dream” (ECM)
Mais do que a enorme vitalidade de Motian, mestre absoluto do drumming mundial, a grande surpresa de “Lost in a Dream” vem de Jason Moran – mais contido, com um toque europeu que lhe assenta como uma luva – e acima de tudo, de Chris Potter, que aqui utiliza uma subtileza e suavidade tímbrica que raramente lhe é ouvida. Um trio clássico num registo poético e lírico. RA

12 LUME – Lisbon Underground Music Ensemble (JACC)
A “big band” dirigida por Marco Barroso chega finalmente ao disco e confirma aquilo que muitos já conheciam das actuações ao vivo da banda: jazz multi-referencial, temas que atravessam décadas da história em poucos minutos, de Ellington a Sun Ra à velocidade da luz. Um brilhante projecto nacional que não pára de surpreender e merecerá todo o reconhecimento (aqui e lá fora). NC

13 Vijay Iyer – Solo (Act)
O pianista aventura-se a solo e o resultado já não surpreende ninguém. Trabalhando uma selecção de standards como “Darn That Dream” e clássicos de Monk (“Epistrophy”) e Ellington (“Fleurette Africaine”), Vijay passa também por “Human Nature” (belíssimo tema de Michael Jackson). Em qualquer desses ambientes, o pianista nunca abandona o seu típico registo, sóbrio e metódico, inteligente no desenvolvimento dos temas, criativo e elegante. NC

14 Steve Swell Slammin’ The Infinite “5000 Poems” (Not Two)
Nome incontornável do jazz de vanguarda norte-americano e um dos maiores trombonistas da actualidade, Steve Swell já não gravava um disco assim há muito tempo. Em “5000 Poems”, com um quinteto bem calibrado, surpreende tudo e todos com um registo vibrante, pleno de inspiração e poder, na linha dos grandes clássicos free dos anos 60 e 70. Composições brilhantes e discursos solistas de cortar a respiração. RA

15 Mário Laginha Trio “Mongrel” (ONC)
Cada vez mais focado no seu próprio universo, Mário Laginha continua a seguir a sua estrela aventurando-se em projectos de alto risco. Em “Mongrel” aborda a obra de um dos seus compositores favoritos, Frédéric Chopin, e recusando soluções fáceis, opera uma transformação profunda das suas composições, alterando compassos, tempos, melodias e harmonias. Raramente uma fusão ou “mestiçagem” de estilos musicais deu origem a uma música tão pura e orgânica. RA