May 26, 2008

Now Playing: Evan Parker

Evan Parker/Transatlantic Art Ensemble: Boustrophedon (in Six Furrows) (ECM)

Evan Parker: soprano saxophone; Roscoe Mitchell: alto & soprano saxophones; Anders Svanoe: alto saxophone; John Rangecroft: clarinet; Neil Metcalfe: flute; Corey Wilkes: trumpet, flugelhorn; Nils Bultmann: viola; Philipp Wachsmann: violin; Marcio Mattos: cello; Craig Taborn: piano; Jaribu Shahid: double-bass; Barry Guy: double-bass; Tani Tabbal: drums, percussion; Paul Lytton: drums, percussion

Recorded live at Muffathalle, Munich in September, 2004.

This is an essential companion to Roscoe Mitchell’s brilliant Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 &3 (ECM) which I wrote about here. Same extraordinary musicians, but this time featuring Evan Parker’s music. Keep in mind that Parker has long been a standard bearer for “total music” or pure free improvisation - and the concomitant disdain for composition that this implies [FN1]. So it is interesting to hear him taking a dip into the Third Stream with substantial portions of fully notated material and tightly controlled improvisations. As such, Boustrophedon is unique in Parker’s massive discography and worth hearing for that fact alone.

Parker adopts some of the strategies that Mitchell used to marshal the large-ish forces of the Transatlantic Art Ensemble such as prelude-like themes, conducted tutti figures, groupings and sub-groupings of individual instruments, and climaxes built on the staggered entry of simultaneous soloists. There are even moments of swingin’ timekeeping. But the music remains uniquely Parker’s, even if his horn is often silent. Comparing the two releases, it is striking how adept these musicians are at realizing the creator’s intentions while still retaining their own individuality and free expression. Manfred Eicher’s live sound manipulations give the proceedings an otherworldly (if sometimes murky) ambience, in keeping, I suppose, with Parker’s Electroacoustic Ensemble recordings on ECM, though I might have preferred Steve Lake’s clarity and transparency of texture as found on Mitchell’s disc. Sonic quibbles aside, this is an exceptional recording.


[FN1]: The partisan Free Jazz Blog repudiates both records for apostasy here.

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