3 recordings from 3 live concerts in 3 London boroughs, including the 2012 Freedom of the City Festival, bringing together master improvisers Evan Parker (saxophone), Eddie Prevost (Percussion) and Sebastian Lexer (piano) for unpredictable and exhilarating dialog.
Lexer, Sebastian / Evan Parker / Eddie Prevost
Released in: Great Britain
"Hearing Evan Parker make music with Eddie Prévost, on the first of these three lengthy duets recorded in three different London boroughs, is like watching a pair of tai chi masters sparring. Parker's tenor and Prévost's bowed and struck percussion draw buoyancy from each other's energy as they alternately push and yield. Together they move with feline lightness, agility and balance, even when the music's mood is stormy and turbulent. The event was Freedom Of The City 2012; the venue, Cecil Sharp House in Camden Town, London. The character and dynamics of that occasion change continuously, but there's never a sense that this exhilarating music is getting locked into a formal shape or falling under the shadow of its performers' individual identities.
Two other engrossing duets on TriBorough Triptych feature pianist Sebastian Lexer: with Prévost at Old Deptford Town Hall, South London, and with Parker on soprano at Dalston's Cafe Oto. Lexer's playing is disciplined and rather sparing, although he clearly enjoys pianistic practices and sonorities, not least perhaps for their historical weight, an element of resistance he can work with or against, just as Parker and Prévost parry the associations clinging to their own chosen instruments. But Lexer's piano+ set-up involves a personally developed software to analyse and adjust the acoustic output, eliciting textures and durations unexpected from a grand piano, enhancing its scope and introducing an air of instability that calls for sharp reactions. Parker and Prévost are kept in states of heightened attentiveness, and the sustained outcome is lucid and graceful music making."-Julian Cowley, The Wire
Tri-Borough Triptych could almost be considered a sequel to last year's hard-to-place Impossibility in Its Purest Form-or, at the very least, an extension of the ideas it engaged. The albums both share a similar line-up and organizational structure: Lexer's piano+ and Prévost's percussion matched with an idiosyncratic saxophonist, then presented as a series of duos. But where Impossibility sported three shorter duos that culminated in a long trio performance, Tri-Borough Triptych forgoes the trio in favor of devoting more time to the stunning duets.
The first, "Camden," is the familiar pairing of Parker and Prévost. About four minutes in, Parker touches on an almost Middle Eastern mode, accented by rich, methodical bows on the cymbals, which lend to the Eastern feel. Prévost's palette seems expanded here; he coaxes a much richer range of sonorities from his cymbals, occasionally shadowing Parker's tenor with impressive precision, and adds sporadic exclamation marks of toms and rubbed drumheads. The performance reprises the ritualistic air of their meetings on Most Materials: here, we encounter the secret rites of the Masters.
Equally exciting are the performances with Lexer. Every new album is an opportunity to see the development of his expertise with his piano+ system. Last year, I described his cyborg instrument as "neither piano nor electronics," but "a very mysterious, organic soundworld that's intimately tied to the physical act of playing piano, even though the source material is often hopelessly obscured." On "Deptford" he becomes so subtly enmeshed with Prévost's wash of sound that he's difficult to pick out; his contributions connect in some subconscious place, like the omnipresent, deeply-felt hum of a giant transformer. At eight minutes, some delicate chords are sounded. They are fleeting, and the electronics sustain their ringing harmonics indefinitely, where they are soon subsumed into Prévost's clatter, which sounds both immediate and distant, like a dark storm on the horizon whose first raindrops are already beginning to splash down. The music is abstract, but it's difficult to listen without grasping for associations: later, the crackling of a fire, echoing in the heart of a cast iron stove.
But in the end, the first two-thirds of the album could be viewed as a set-up for the showdown between Lexer and Parker, their first meeting. Parker and Prévost have a storied history, and we're now familiar with Lexer and Prévost, as well. We're left anticipating the ways Lexer's incredible piano+ system will interact with Parker's singular approach, one that's no stranger to dramatic electro-acoustic environments. Lexer is in a remarkable position to match a normally fixed-pitch instrument against the microtonal bath of Parker's technique. As "Dalston" gets under way, Parker's approach keeps close to his solo outings, with incredible runs on soprano that Lexer often engages indirectly, creating his own complex patterns of harmonics that crash into Parker's. But there are also piano and sax-transcending drones, a product of Parker's pulmonary might and Lexer's technology. After 20 minutes, these give way to beautiful, chiming tones, a duet of church bells and birdsong.
What's remarkable about Tri-Borough Triptych is how close these three very different instruments can be pulled together. These duos display of a new era of virtuosity, in which the musicians have moved beyond mere "chops" to a level where their chosen instrument can be melted down and re-forged to fit nearly any working context. But for anyone already familiar with these three, that's hardly news."-Dan Sorrels, Free Jazz Blog
• Show Bio for Evan Parker
"Evan Parker was born in Bristol in 1944 and began to play the saxophone at the age of 14. Initially he played alto and was an admirer of Paul Desmond; by 1960 he had switched to tenor and soprano, following the example of John Coltrane, a major influence who, he would later say, determined "my choice of everything". In 1962 he went to Birmingham University to study botany but a trip to New York, where he heard the Cecil Taylor trio (with Jimmy Lyons and Sunny Murray), prompted a change of mind. What he heard was "music of a strength and intensity to mark me for life ... l came back with my academic ambitions in tatters and a desperate dream of a life playing that kind of music - 'free jazz' they called it then."
Parker stayed in Birmingham for a time, often playing with pianist Howard Riley. In 1966 he moved to London, became a frequent visitor to the Little Theatre Club, centre of the city's emerging free jazz scene, and was soon invited by drummer John Stevens to join the innovative Spontaneous Music Ensemble which was experimenting with new kinds of group improvisation. Parker's first issued recording was SME's 1968 Karyobin, with a line-up of Parker, Stevens, Derek Bailey, Dave Holland and Kenny Wheeler. Parker remained in SME through various fluctuating line-ups - at one point it comprised a duo of Stevens and himself - but the late 1960s also saw him involved in a number of other fruitful associations.
He began a long-standing partnership with guitarist Bailey, with whom he formed the Music Improvisation Company and, in 1970, co-founded Incus Records. (Tony Oxley, in whose sextet Parker was then playing, was a third co-founder; Parker left Incus in the mid-1980s.) Another important connection was with the bassist Peter Kowald who introduced Parker to the German free jazz scene. This led to him playing on Peter Brötzmann's 1968 Machine Gun, Manfred Schoof's 1969 European Echoes and, in 1970, joining pianist Alex von Schlippenbach and percussionist Paul Lovens in the former's trio, of which he is still a member: their recordings include Pakistani Pomade, Three Nails Left, Detto Fra Di Noi, Elf Bagatellen and Physics.
Parker pursued other European links, too, playing in the Pierre Favre Quartet (with Kowald and Swiss pianist Irene Schweizer) and in the Dutch Instant Composers Pool of Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink. The different approaches to free jazz he encountered proved both a challenging and a rewarding experience. He later recalled that the German musicians favoured a "robust, energy-based thing, not to do with delicacy or detailed listening but to do with a kind of spirit-raising, a shamanistic intensity. And l had to find a way of surviving in the heat of that atmosphere ... But after a while those contexts became more interchangeable and more people were involved in the interactions, so all kinds of hybrid musics came out, all kinds of combinations of styles."
A vital catalyst for these interactions were the large ensembles in which Parker participated in the 1970s: Schlippenbach's Globe Unity Orchestra, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) and occasional big bands led by Kenny Wheeler. In the late 70s Parker also worked for a time in Wheeler's small group, recording Around Six and, in 1980, he formed his own trio with Guy and LJCO percussionist Paul Lytton (with whom he had already been working in a duo for nearly a decade). This group, together with the Schlippenbach trio, remains one of Parker's top musical priorities: their recordings include Tracks, Atlanta, Imaginary Values, Breaths and Heartbeats, The Redwood Sessions and At the Vortex. In 1980, Parker directed an Improvisers Symposium in Pisa and, in 1981, he organised a special project at London's Actual Festival. By the end of the 1980s he had played in most European countries and had made various tours to the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. ln 1990, following the death of Chris McGregor, he was instrumental in organising various tributes to the pianist and his fellow Blue Notes; these included two discs by the Dedication Orchestra, Spirits Rejoice and lxesa.
Though he has worked extensively in both large and small ensembles, Parker is perhaps best known for his solo soprano saxophone music, a singular body of work that in recent years has centred around his continuing exploration of techniques such as circular breathing, split tonguing, overblowing, multiphonics and cross-pattern fingering. These are technical devices, yet Parker's use of them is, he says, less analytical than intuitive; he has likened performing his solo work to entering a kind of trance-state. The resulting music is certainly hypnotic, an uninterrupted flow of snaky, densely-textured sound that Parker has described as "the illusion of polyphony". Many listeners have indeed found it hard to credit that one man can create such intricate, complex music in real time. Parker's first solo recordings, made in 1974, were reissued on the Saxophone Solos CD in 1995; more recent examples are Conic Sections and Process and Reality, on the latter of which he does, for the first time, experiment with multi-tracking. Heard alone on stage, few would disagree with writer Steve Lake that "There is, still, nothing else in music - jazz or otherwise - that remotely resembles an Evan Parker solo concert."
While free improvisation has been Parker's main area of activity over the last three decades, he has also found time for other musical pursuits: he has played in 'popular' contexts with Annette Peacock, Scott Walker and the Charlie Watts big band; he has performed notated pieces by Gavin Bryars, Michael Nyman and Frederic Rzewski; he has written knowledgeably about various ethnic musics in Resonance magazine. A relatively new field of interest for Parker is improvising with live electronics, a dialogue he first documented on the 1990 Hall of Mirrors CD with Walter Prati. Later experiments with electronics in the context of larger ensembles have included the Synergetics - Phonomanie III project at Ullrichsberg in 1993 and concerts by the new EP2 (Evan Parker Electronic Project) in Berlin, Nancy and at the 1995 Stockholm Electronic Music Festival where Parker's regular trio improvised with real-time electronics processed by Prati, Marco Vecchi and Phillip Wachsmann. "Each of the acoustic instrumentalists has an electronic 'shadow' who tracks him and feeds a modified version of his output back to the real-time flow of the music."
The late 80s and 90s brought Parker the chance to play with some of his early heroes. He worked with Cecil Taylor in small and large groups, played with Coltrane percussionist Rashied Ali, recorded with Paul Bley: he also played a solo set as support to Ornette Coleman when Skies of America received its UK premiere in 1988. The same period found Parker renewing his acquaintance with American colleagues such as Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy and George Lewis, with all of whom he had played in the 1970s (often in the context of London's Company festivals). His 1993 duo concert with Braxton moved John Fordham in The Guardian to raptures over "saxophone improvisation of an intensity, virtuosity, drama and balance to tax the memory for comparison".
Parker's 50th birthday in 1994 brought celebratory concerts in several cities, including London, New York and Chicago. The London performance, featuring the Parker and Schlippenbach trios, was issued on a highly-acclaimed two-CD set, while participants at the American concerts included various old friends as well as more recent collaborators in Borah Bergman and Joe Lovano. The NYC radio station WKCR marked the occasion by playing five days of Parker recordings. 1994 also saw the publication of the Evan Parker Discography, compiled by ltalian writer Francesco Martinelli, plus chapters on Parker in books on contemporary musics by John Corbett and Graham Lock.
Parker's future plans involve exploring further possibilities in electronics and the development of his solo music. They also depend to a large degree on continuity of the trios, of the large ensembles, of his more occasional yet still long-standing associations with that pool of musicians to whose work he remains attracted. This attraction, he explained to Coda's Laurence Svirchev, is attributable to "the personal quality of an individual voice". The players to whom he is drawn "have a language which is coherent, that is, you know who the participants are. At the same time, their language is flexible enough that they can make sense of playing with each other ... l like people who can do that, who have an intensity of purpose." "-Evan Parker Website (http://evanparker.com/biography.php)
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Catalog ID: MRCD89
Squidco Product Code: 19420
Country: Great Britain
Packaging: Cardstock gatefold foldover
Camden was recorded on May 6th during the 2012 Freedom of the City festival at The Cecil Sharpe House, London. Deptford was recorded at a concert given at Old Deptford Town Hall, Goldsmiths College, London on 25th May 2012. Dalston was recorded at a concert given at Cafe Oto, London on 15th January 2013.
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1. Camden 28:25
2. Deptford 26:09
3. Dalston 24:57