The Squid's Ear
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Joe Morris / Rob Oxoby: Dancing With Penguins (Bug Incision Records)

Improvising guitarist/bassist, writer, and educator Joe Morris spent four months as visiting scholar at the University of Calgary, during which time he recorded with University of Calgary professor and double bassist Rob Oxoby, this freely improvised album with Morris on electric guitar, a great confluence of strings in 6 concentrated and adept dialogs. ... Click to View


Joe Morris / Chris Dadge / Jonathon Wilcke: Rural Optimism (Bug Incision Records)

During guitarist Joe Morris' stay as a visiting scholar at University of Calgary, Morris joined the Chris Dadge / Jonathon Wilkes duo, first on stage and then in the studio to record this first-rate album of collective improvisation, merging idiosyncratic percussive activity, abstract and lyrical sax declarations, and profound and pointillistic guitar work. ... Click to View


Bent Spoon Trio: Nine Year Itch (Bug Incision Records)

Formed in 2002 as a quartet, then in 2005 as the trio of Chris Dadge (percussion, trumpet, bass), David Laing (bass & trombone), and Scott Munro (sax, melodica, &c), then as the duo of Dadge & Monro in 2008; 2016 found the trio together again in Calgary for the closing of the Emmedia performance space, their entire set of unique collective improv captured for this CD. ... Click to View


Chris Dadge / Jonathon Wilcke: Three Live Pieces (Bug Incision Records)

With a 15 year history of collaboration, Bug Incision label leader Chris Dadge joins with fellow Calgary free improviser Jonathon Wilcke on saxophone for an album of live performances in their home city, two performances from Parlour and one at Local 510, showing strong rapport in their duo of uniquely unconventional percussion and lyrically quirky sax. ... Click to View


Obnox (Lamont Thomas): Templo del Sonido [RED VINYL] (Astral Spirits)

Ohio garage and free rock mainstay Lamont Thomas, AKA Obnox, was approached by Astral Spirits to make a free jazz record, the unexpected results sounding more like a rock record in a wild ride of noise, funk, electro, voice, and percussion, a savage album with the protest and pointed sensibilities of the early 60s; pressed on translucent red vinyl. ... Click to View


Signe Dahlgreen : Kunki Snuk [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

Solo improvisations on the heavy side from Swedish saxophonist Signe Lykkebo Dahlgreen (Yes Deer, Per-Ake Holmander, Anna Hogberg), using prodigious technique and a tenacious style she pushes the sax into odd harmonic territory balancing complex technical playing with raw energy and angst, a balance that keeps her listeners on the edge of their seats. ... Click to View


Paolo Sanna: Fluorite (Creative Sources)

Dedicating his album to Paul Burwell and Z'ev, Spanish percussionist Paolo Sanna demonstrates his many years of research in sound, silence, noise, experimentation, musical research and deconstruction through stand percussive devices and found objects, giving his playing a distinctive and personal palette which he plays with superb technique and timing. ... Click to View


Ernesto Rodrigues / Guilherme Rodrigues / Bruno Parrinha / Luis Lopes / Vasco Trilla: { Lithos } (Creative Sources)

Recording in the studio in Lisbon, Portugal, the free improvising lowercase/subtle momentum quintet of Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Guilherme Rodrigues on cello, Bruno Parrinha on bass clarinet, Luis Lopes on electric guitar, and Vasco Trilla on percussion demonstrate intense control and remarkable concentration through the five parts of "{ Lithos }". ... Click to View


PCRV: Mobility [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

Thick fuzzy sound with subliminal interventions and a subsumed squiggly lead line makes the first side of this cassette release from American sound artist Matt Taggart, AKA PCRV, balanced by a ringing work piece of ambient harmonics that creates a beautiful hypnotic tone texture that shifts slowly with illusional transitions. ... Click to View


Pregnant Spore: I Am in Love with My Own Sins [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

Pregnant Sport is Justin Marc Lloyd, Chicago-based experimental noise artist who performs under a variety of monikers, here as Pregnant Spore in a rapid-paced album of rich and ruptured sound, unusual rhythmic sources, reverse phonetics, quickly changing pace and direction while maintaining an odd sense of cohesion; fascinating and perplexing. ... Click to View


Satoko Fujii / Joe Fonda: Mizu (Long Song Records)

With commanding instrumental skills and a growing history of collaboration, bassist Joe Fonda and pianist Satoko Fujii are heard again in two live concerts as part of their 2017 European tour, two duos from Belgium and one in Germany, the CD taking its title from the Japanese word for "water" as the two converse in powerfully emotional and technically breathtaking ways. ... Click to View


Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. I (The Embedded Sets) [2 CDs] (Pi Recordings)

With his earliest and most current performance history tied to the enduring Manhattan jazz club The Village Vanguard, alto saxophonist Steve Coleman records his Five Elements in a 2017 live show with Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Miles Okazaki on guitar, Anthony Tidd on bass, and Sean Rickman on drums for a fiery, exuberant and masterful concert of modern jazz. ... Click to View


Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse: Morphogenesis (Pi Recordings)

Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse brings together 9 musicians in a chamber jazz setting without a drum set--Jonathan Finlays(trumpet), Jen Shyu (vocals), Matt Mitchell (piano), Mara Grand (tenor sax), Rane Moore (clarinet), Kristin Lee (violin), Greg Chudzik (bass), and Neeraj Mehta (percussion)--performing 9 of Coleman's sophisticated original compositions. ... Click to View


Barker Trio: Avert Your I [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

After releasing drummer Andrew Barker's duo with Daniel Carter, "Polyhedron", Astral Spirits takes on Barker's trio album with sidemen Michael Foster on tenor & soprano sax, plus electronics, and Tim Dahl on bass, Barker also adding synth & electronics, for an album of ruggedly intense, propulsive playing with a probing inquisitiveness. ... Click to View


Charles Barabe : De la Fragilite [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

Victoriaville, Quebec electronic composer Charles Barbare creates abstract electroacoustic works, here in an impressive 6-movement work that covers a wide ground from minimalistic rhythmic sections to time-stretched voices and electronics to musique mystery, his inquisitive approach allowing his scores to unfold in decipherable, dramatic and coherent ways. ... Click to View


Hvizdalek / Nergaard / Tavil / Garner: Juxtaposition (Nakama Records)

Sonic sources of a wide variety of timbre, rhythm and tone, mixed with voice, feedback, even bird sounds, make up the strata of this intriguing album from Oslo Improvisers Agnes Hvizdalek (voice), Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard (electric bass, electronics, field recordings), Utku Tavil (snare drum, no input mixer, sampler), and Natali Abrahamsen Garner (voice, electronics). ... Click to View


Hvizdalek / Nergaard / Tavil / Garner: Juxtaposition [CASSETTE] (Nakama Records)

Sonic sources of a wide variety of timbre, rhythm and tone, mixed with voice, feedback, even bird sounds, make up the strata of this intriguing album from Oslo Improvisers Agnes Hvizdalek (voice), Magnus Skavhaug Nergaard (electric bass, electronics, field recordings), Utku Tavil (snare drum, no input mixer, sampler), and Natali Abrahamsen Garner (voice, electronics). ... Click to View


Goh Kwang Lee / Christian Meaas Svendsen: Gibberish, Balderdash and Drivel (Nakama Records)

Three "nonsensical" musical conversations between Malaysian experimental musician and Herbal International label founder Goh Lee Kwang, and Norwegian bass player and Nakama label leader Christian Meeas Svendsen; a first encounter between two different mindsets, nationalities and generations, packaged with a pencil to let you draw your own cover. ... Click to View


Goh Kwang Lee / Christian Meaas Svendsen: Gibberish, Balderdash and Drivel [VINYL] (Nakama Records)

Three "nonsensical" musical conversations between Malaysian experimental musician and Herbal International label founder Goh Lee Kwang, and Norwegian bass player and Nakama label leader Christian Meeas Svendsen; a first encounter between two different mindsets, nationalities and generations, packaged with a pencil to let you draw your own cover. ... Click to View


Hal Hutchinson: Factory Metal Sound [CASSETTE] (Banned Production)

British noise artist Hal Hutchinson (Der Bunker Records) in a record of apparent field recordings of metallic factory sounds, a machinist's daydream of rotating and subdued lathe sounds, each side of the cassette with a distinct timbre and recording ambiance as the mysterious sounds provide a cantankerously complex set of audio environments. ... Click to View


Mako Sica / Hamid Drake: Ronda [VINYL 2 LPs] (Feeding Tube Records)

The long-running Chicago free-rock trio Mako Sica currently comprised of Przemyslaw Drazek (trumpet & guitar), Brent Fuscaldo (guitar) and Chaetan Newell (drums & piano) are joined by free improvising legend Hamid Drake on drum kit, tablas and frame drum for a beautiful and rich album of genre merging, spiritually warm, primarily instrumental music, inclusive and persuasive. ... Click to View


Mako Sica / Hamid Drake: Ronda [CASSETTE + DOWNLOAD] (Astral Spirits)

The long-running Chicago free-rock trio Mako Sica currently comprised of Przemyslaw Drazek (trumpet & guitar), Brent Fuscaldo (guitar) and Chaetan Newell (drums & piano) are joined by free improvising legend Hamid Drake on drum kit, tablas and frame drum for a beautiful and rich album of genre merging, spiritually warm, primarily instrumental music, inclusive and persuasive. ... Click to View


Musaeum Clausum: Musaeum Clausum (Umlaut Records)

Musaeum Clausum is a French-German trio that features Louis Laurain on cornet (Die Hochstapler, Umlaut Big band, ONCEIM), Hannes Lingens on drums (Obliq, Konzert Minimal) and Sebastien Beliah on bass.(Un Poco Loco, Ensemble Hodos, Umlaut Big Band), in an album of patiently developing improvisation giving each player freedom and flexibility within a composed framework. ... Click to View


Sebastien Beliah : Nocturnes (Umlaut Records)

Sebastien Beliah is a Paris-based double bass player, a member of Umlaut Big Band, The Coquettes, Un poco loco, &c., here in a solo album of bass noir, dark and resonant tones evoked through strong bowing, finding harmonics between the strings and from the instrument itself, creating beautiful passages in a mirage of engulfing deep timbre. ... Click to View


Charles Noyes K. / Owen Maercks w/ Henry Kaiser / Greg Goodman: Free Mammals [VINYL] (Feeding Tube Records)

A great example of open-minded West Coast free improvisation around the late 70s from the quartet of Charles K. Noyes on percussion & saxophone, Owen Maercks on guitar, Henry Kaiser on guitar, and Greg Goodman on piano & percussion, side A from a live concert in Berkeley recorded by guitarist Henry Kaiser, side B from sutdio sessions in San Francisco. ... Click to View


Toshimaru Nakamura : Re-Verbed (No-Input Mixing Board 9) (Room40)

Tokyo-based electronics artist Toshimaru Nakamura's 9th album of No-Input Mixing Board music, elucidating sound from the mixing board without any audio sources, showing the amazing evolution of his approach as he turns this "empty" "instrument" into an amazing source of rhythmic and assertive sound that's both surprising and wonderfully musical. ... Click to View


Paul Flaherty / Chris Corsano: The Hated Music [VINYL 2 LPs] (Feeding Tube Records)

Gary Panter's artwork is updated and the format is vinyl this time for this welcome reissue of the 2000 Ecstatic Yod CD from the now long-running duo of tenor & alto saxophonist Paul Flaherty and drummer Chris Corsano, a superb free jazz album of great invention and seriously deep playing, from hard attacks to introspective musing, truly impressive! ... Click to View


Sidsel Endresen / Jan Bang: Hum (Confront)

Using sampler, dictaphone, and voice, the duo of Sidsel Endresen and Jan Bang improvise and interact to create unorthodox hybrids of fractured electronics and articulated word, as edgy and engaging as it is unusual, captured live at Victoria Nasjonal Jazzscene, in Oslo, Norway in 2016, a great followup to Bang's "And Poppies From Kandahar" Samadhi album. ... Click to View


Don Cherry: Home Boy, Sister Out (WeWantSounds)

Trumpeter Don Cherry recorded this funk album in France in 1985 with a set of multi-ethnic Paris players including Elli Medeiros and produced by Ramuntcho Matta, the songs crossing funk with jazzy vamps, rock roots and modern approaches, reissued with new liner notes and 5 bonus tracks including the cult 1983 single "Kick" featuring legendary author Brion Gysin. ... Click to View


Don Cherry: Home Boy, Sister Out [VINYL 2 LPs] (WeWantSounds)

Trumpeter Don Cherry recorded this funk album in France in 1985 with a set of multi-ethnic Paris players including Elli Medeiros and produced by Ramuntcho Matta, the songs crossing funk with jazzy vamps, rock roots and modern approaches, reissued with new liner notes and 5 bonus tracks including the cult 1983 single "Kick" featuring legendary author Brion Gysin. ... Click to View


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  Free Music Missionary or Professional Juggler  

Evan Parker Discusses Four Decades in Free Improvisation


By Marc Chenard
Photo by Martin Morissette 2003-06-19

Call it 'free jazz', 'free music', or 'European Improvised Music' if you want, but one thing is for sure: it is as vibrant nowadays, if not more than when it was first thrust upon the transatlantic music scene a little less than forty years ago. As enduring as its history has been over there, it is now spanning the Great Divide and reaching not only a steadily growing audience but an increasingly younger one at that. Of its most heralded practioners, British tenor and soprano saxophonist Evan Parker is clearly one of its leading figures and, at 59, his commitment to this art form has never flagged. Two summers ago, during the debut edition of a festival of improvised music held in Montreal, Evan Parker visited the city for the first time in 15 years. Between two evening performances, one solo, the other with a pair of live electronics players, he spoke at length of the music he has been unerringly devoted to for the last 35 years, sharing some insights on its checkered history while expatiating, so to speak, on a few of the fineries of his own artistic practices and beliefs. Evan Parker

Marc Chenard: In 1997, veteran Belgian pianist Fred van Hove made an interesting point when I asked him to contrast the state of improvised music now from the early days of the 1960s: for him it used to be like jumping off a cliff, but now it's more like finding your way through a jungle. Do you agree with that statement? Since you too are a 'first generation' free improviser, you have seen this music change considerably over time.

Evan Parker: To me jumping off a cliff speaks of an uncertain voyage with a messy and most likely painful end to it. But wandering through the jungle doesn't really speak of any direction, so you may not know where you're going and be lost. I'm not quite sure I follow that. This music certainly has a history to it and we play as much in reference to it as our to own current activities. Now this calls into question the issue of stylistic or aesthetic coherence, and how we can keep something fresh while keeping it true to a certain way of thinking, or line of development. Yes, I've been called a 'first generation' free improvisor, but it's really hard to say where or when this music really started, and while it may be true in a certain context, it's not really the case when you look at the bigger picture.

M.C.: Speaking of things historical, London in the late '60s was really a fulcrum of sorts, and one place in particular played an important role in the emergence of the British free music scene, that being the Little Theater. How did you get involved?

E.P.: The late drummer John Stevens just invited me to play there, and it was really his fiefdom. He had the ear of the owner (Jean Pritchard was her name), and she'd been operating an after-hours hangout for actors who, by the way, weren't that crazy about the music. So it must have been a struggle for John to keep her straight, so to speak, but he had the social skills to do that.

M.C.: At that same period, you would also get to know other European free improvising musicians from the continent, like bassist Peter Kowald [who died last year, after this interview took place].

E.P.: Peter came to London in fact, but we never played at the Little Theater. He joined me and John at a time when our group (i.e. the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, or SME for short) was reduced to just a duo. We were working at a small folk club called 'Les Cousins', which interestingly enough was operated by the blues musician Alexis Korner. At that time, he had this duo with a guy called Victor Brocks, and they had this sort of idealistic notion of playing a very free kind of blues while were doing a very free kind of jazz. So we'd each do a set thentry to play together at the end of the week... but that didn't go on for too long. So we played there with Peter over the Summer of '67. Late that year, Peter invited me to come to this music workshop that the radio producer Joachim-Ernst Behrendt was putting together for the South German radio in Baden Baden. But I only got in because John Tchicai decided to cancel at the last minute. It's on that occasion I first met Peter Brötzmann and Gunther Hampel, as well as Don Cherry, Marion Brown and Jean ne Lee.

M.C.: So I gather this session was what lead up to the now 'seminal' recording "Machine Gun"?

E.P.: Right. And Brötzmann also introduced me to Alex von Schlippenbach (around 1970), but that was after getting to know Willem Breuker, Han Bennink and Misha Mengelberg. Kowald, on the other hand, was responsible for bringing me together with Irene Schweizer and Pierre Favre, and we worked for a couple of years together, and did that one recording for Wergo in '69. Sometimes they played just as a trio, or I'd join them when they could afford bringing me over. I was now getting better acquainted with the German scene, and thanks to an invitation from Jost Gebers (the now soon to retire producer of FMP Records in Berlin), a larger version of SME performed there, which had Dave Holland, Derek Bailey, Trevor Watts, John and myself.

M.C.: So it was John who was responsible for bringing you and Derek together.

E.P.: In effect, because he was playing occasionally at the Little Theater club with that trio called 'Joseph Holbrooke', the one with Gavin Bryars and Tony Oxley. But Gavin left to study in America, so it was from there that we started playing together. It was also around that time that we did that record for ECM (" Music Improvisation Company"). Come to think of it, it's really a complicated period to re-construct, because there were so many contacts happening at the same time.

M.C.: Among those contacts, there were the Blue Notes, that legendary South African band who settled in London for a while. They, too, had quite an effect.

E.P.: Sure, their approach was so different, but it was not like we were trying to learn their music only; they were just as interested by our free playing as we were by theirs. I remember doing a gig with the pianist Chris McGregor and the drummer Louis Moholo, just playing completely free, and that was probably around or before 1970. The trumpeter Mongezi Feza also did the same, and Dudu Pukwana, the sax player, would go to Holland to play with Misha and Han. To this day, Louis is still the happiest when he plays free.

M.C.: I can imagine there were a lot of sessions going on during the day, but were there many more venues to bring this to the public?

E.P.: Well, the Little Theater was pretty much the place, but there was also a short period, of about a year and a half or two, when Ronnie Scott's club kept its original Gerrard Street locale while starting up its new one right across on Frith Street. It was probably more jazzy on the average, like Mike Westbrook's bands, Chris McGregor, John Surman and Mike Osborne, with John Stevens and myself usually slotted on a midweek evening. Mike also had a place of his own called 'Peanuts' and that was further East, near Liverpool Street. His own people mostly played there, but he would farm out gigs to others as well. So you could say it was pretty healthy back then, but I think we need to have a few more Peanuts-type places happening now. I'm always encouraging bass players and drummers to do this, because they're the natural ones for this type of thing.

M.C.: In contrast to that period, how does London compare nowadays? It is happening?

E.P.: Absolutely! There are hundred of musicians now and it's impossible to keep up. There's a whole generation of people in their20's and younger now ready and eager to pursue this music. Take for example, the bassist John Edwards (who plays with Jah Wobble), he's still quite young and very much involved in this scene.

M.C.: Interestingly enough, this renewed interest in improvised music is not only a local phenomenon, but a more international one as well. Take, for instance, the United States: It's blossoming there as well, both in terms of musicians and audience.

E.P.: There's a surge, that's for sure... and I hope it carries on like this! Let's see, here we are in June, and I've been over four times already, a record for me. But the interesting thing is that I don't even initiate these contacts. They come from people inviting me. And they come not only from New York or other major cities, but from more remote places, too.

M.C.: On the first night of your stay here, you played a solo saxophone concert, and this has been very central to your art over the last 25 years. But until only recently, you would only play soprano in solo contexts, how come?

E.P.: I've always thought of myself as being a soprano player who doubles on tenor rather than the other way around. Actually, when I switched from alto to tenor way back when, there was a time I was only playing soprano. Nowadays, in certain contexts, like with drums, I only play tenor, but it's taken time for that to happen. And after playing just soprano in solo contexts, that too is changing.

M.C.: It worked out to about half and half in the performance. What also struck me is the fact that your tenor language is moving closer than ever to your soprano language, whereas in the past it seemed you made a conscious effort to keep both of these as separate as possible. What interests me here is to find out how you are working on translating the concepts of the soprano to the tenor.

E.P.: That's quite new for me, indeed, and it does seem they're overlapping more than ever. With the techniques I've developed to control certain possibilities on one horn, it's as if I can reverse the roles of the two hands when I'm trying to translate these over to what I could call the "physics of the tenor." You see, it all has to do with how broken air columns work. Now this may well be a broad generalization, but I could say that the soprano is a closed column broken in the left hand while the tenor tends to be more of a left hand position modified by the right hand. Now this might sound impenetrable to anyone who doesn't play the saxophone, or maybe even for those who do, but it means something to me. You could say that it has to do with the ways in which the keys fall under your hand, the weight distribution and the fingerings as well, because a lot of this stuff depends on getting up to a certain speed.

M.C.: I imagine you have to practice a lot to keep this up.

E.P.: These days, I'm not practicing as much as I should, because I'm too busy, traveling and what not. But one can do a lot of conceptual practicing as well, something like mental arithmetic where you're thinking of intervallic patterns. For instance: to go through sequences of alternating minor thirds and fourths, or semi-tones and flat fifths, from bottom to top and knowing where to go down when you run out of instrument. The eight or ten hour practice day is long in the past for me, but there were times when I was only doing that because work was so scarce.

M.C.: After 25 years of solo concerts and having built such a language, do you have a feeling of living too much by it? Are there times where you'd like to break away from it?

E.P.: That calls to mind the title of a book by Doris Lessing and that is Prisons We Choose to Live Inside. I guess it's a prison I've chosen to live in. Of course, you can choose to do something different, but that's rather easy to juststand up and do something nobody expects. I find it more interesting to do what people expect and then still surprise them, or myself for that matter. For the moment, I am finding things and recombining them in interesting ways. I like that feeling of capturing people's ears and taking them on a journey. I can be a guide only if I go down some paths I already know myself. After all, it's not much good having a guide who doesn't know his way through the jungle...



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