British saxophonist, Evan Parker is simply one of the world’s premier musical improvisers. He came to Toronto in February 2009 as a guest of the AIMToronto (Association of Improvising Musicians Toronto) Interface Series, and Parker’s exceptional trio during that event with Toronto’s Wes Neal (double bass) and Joe Sorbara (drums) was recorded by Barnyard’s Jean Martin.
Produced by Jean Martin
Recorded live at Somewhere There, Toronto, Canada
by Jean Martin, February 15, 2009
Mixed and mastered by Jean Martin at The Farm, Toronto
Art and photos (Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, UK) by J. Martin
The recording of freely improvised music performances offers an especially thorny example of the paradox that attends the recording of all musics, most notably jazz, that claim spontaneity and immediacy as among their fundamental defining characteristics. The radical spontaneity of free improvisation – one-off musical performances with no predetermined form or structure – might appear to represent the ne plus ultra of the discourse of immediacy that has served to characterize jazz since its earliest days. From this perspective, of course, the very concept of recording would appear to be antithetical. But, contrary to Eric Dolphy’s famous contention that music is “gone, in the air”, the fact remains that the history of jazz and improvised music is largely the history of sound recordings. And for this – all paradoxes aside – we should be grateful. As friendly experiencers (to borrow Anthony Braxton’s felicitous phrase), we are indeed lucky that the development of jazz coincided with the development of recording technology, allowing us to engage with and revisit the rich music-making of the last 100 years.
The trio performance on this recording, featuring Joe Sorbara on drums and percussion, Wes Neal on bass, and Evan Parker on tenor saxophone, formed part of the Parker Interface series, coordinated by AIMToronto and held at Somewhere There in February 2009. This session not only offers an excellent example of the success of the Interface concept, which involves invited guest musicians playing in the company of Toronto-based improvisers, but also confirms – notwithstanding the paradox inherent in the process of preserving spontaneity – the value of recording such music. Throughout the performance, Sorbara and Neal engaged with Parker as musical equals, spurring him on to some of his most inspired and unrestrained tenor playing of the series. The 40-minute set is full of rolling highlights – a particular personal favourite comes at the three-quarters mark, with Parker on the edge of breaking into a fractured jig against Neal’s bowed bass and Sorbara’s gong-like chiming, from what is actually a metal record deck platter (think vinyl – at this point, the history of sound recording implicates itself directly in the music). But it’s the sustained intensity of the performance that is most striking, indicating a depth of musical understanding that simply belies the fact that this was the first time these musicians had played together. Contrary to Derek Bailey’s contentious claim for improvised music as a “non-idiomatic” form of musical practice, it is precisely the form’s idiomatic elements that engender and enable the sophisticated musical communication heard on this recording. And, paradoxical or otherwise, this is genuinely spontaneous music that deserves repeated listening.
Evan Parker has played in many formats and line-ups, but his trio recordings with Barry Guy and Paul Lytton are possibly among the better knowns, having changed the sax-bass-drums trio concept over the past decades. On this album, the British master is joined by Canadians Wes Neal on bass and Joe Sorbara on drums, with a trio building on Parker's legacy, yet somehow more accessible.
Anyone wondering how music is evolving, should listen to this album. The fourty-minute improvisation has three musicians moving in perfect symbiosis through soft and subtle and sensitive shifts of sentiment, with Parker exploring the incredible richness of his timbral pallette on the saxophone, a wealth of tones, and slight variations and technical finesse that he showed the world existed in this instrument, and that is now being copied by many, or at least attempts thereto. This is a story of human feelings, expressed as a universe of sound, warm and intelligent, and only possible with deep knowledge of the instruments and of social empathy to make it work coherently.
Anyway, the gentle approach, of intimacy and respectful interaction is kept throughout the album, with rare increases of volume or density, but more likely developed around silence. The music flows nicely and both Neal and Sorbara - having played together often before - are Parker's ideal companions on this journey, being inventive themselves, expressive and as said, moving forward in an excellent stylistic coherence, even when the music becomes more adventurous and fragile towards the end, with Parker's short, evaporating "whimperish" phrases perfectly embraced and comforted by bass and drums, and taken along on more solid ground for the finale.
Bien que sa manière de jouer soit typée, Evan Parker est doué d’une capacité d’adaptation qui lui permet de s’intégrer aux contextes les plus hétéroclites, depuis les ambiances fortement électroniques de son propre Electro-Acoustic Ensemble jusqu’au jazz élégiaque d’un Kenny Wheeler. Cependant, c’est probablement avec de petits ensembles acoustiques inspirés par le free jazz qu’il donne le meilleur de lui-même. C’est lors d’un événement organisé par le collectif AIM Toronto en février 2009 qu’il se produisit pour la première fois avec deux musiciens de cette métropole, le contrebassiste Wes Neal et le batteur Joe Sorbara, collaboration qui a été renouvelée avec bonheur en avril dernier à Montréal. At Somewhere There consiste en une improvisation de 40 minutes où Parker, au saxo ténor, dirige la conversation à trois voix en ayant recours à son habituelle volubilité perspicace. L’instrumentation et la dynamique du groupe ne peuvent que solliciter une comparaison avec le célèbre trio parkerien avec Barry Guy et Paul Lytton, mais on ne saurait évidemment espérer ici le niveau de cohésion quasi télépathique qui existe dans ce groupe plus que trentenaire. Neal est un contrebassiste subtil et attentif, à la sonorité pleine, autant en pizzicato qu’à l’archet, alors que Sorbara privilégie un jeu sec et des sonorités aux dominantes métalliques. Nonobstant les qualités individuelles de chaque musicien, cette rencontre entre un grand maître improvisateur et deux jeunes comparses de talent trouve tout son intérêt dans la grande capacité d’écoute et de réaction des protagonistes au fil de la performance. FAH
Without a hint of condescension, veteran British tenor saxophonist Evan Parker allies his skills with the talents of Torontonians bassist Wes Neal and drummer Joe Sorbara in this first-class essay in free improvisation. During the single track, recorded live at local performance space Somewhere There, rhythms, pitches and tones are mixed, matched, mulched and multiplied with a timbral blend that makes it seems as if the trio members have collaborated for years.
Balancing methodical plucks and brawny strums with a hint of sul tasto extensions, Neal marshals his strings to create an unremitting chromatic pulse. For his part, Sorbara pops, plucks, strikes and bounces rhythms on the sides and tops of his drums to tint and roughen the narrative. Delicate bell pings, rattling chains and, more frequently, the harsh application of a drum stick along a cymbal, mark transitions.
Meanwhile Parker, who has been involved in similar ad-hoc improvising since the mid-1960s, varies his output from intense flutter tonguing to glottal punctuation; and from flattement smears to cadenzas of bird-like twittering. Yet even as his inventive free-flowing timbres inflate, constrict or propel the performance in unexpected directions, he never loses its linear thread. A master of cooperation not dominance, even his intervals of nearly superhuman circular breathing are not challenges but an invitation to further group counterpoint. By the finale his occasional pan-tonal bent notes and nephritic explosions have become merely one element in this group’s sonic picture, separate but equal to the bassist’s double stopping or the drummer’s ruffs and rolls.
Evan Parker excelle dans les rencontres ad hoc entre improvisateurs. At Somewhere There le présente dans un concert torontois en compagnie du bassiste Wes Neal et du percussionniste Joe Sorbara. Une session de 40 minutes habitée par une belle intensité et quelques surprises, dont l’apparition d’un daxophone si je ne m’abuse.
Evan Parker is very strong in one-shot free improvisation meetings. At Somewhere There features him live in Toronto with local musicians Wes Neal (bass) and Joe Sorbara (percussion). A 40-minute session displaying a fine intensity and a few surprises, like the short appearance of a daxophone if I’m not mistaken.