Pianist John Escreet brought his trio with drummer Tyshawn Sorey and bassist John Hebert on a tour of Europe in 2016, meeting with British saxophonist Evan Parker in Amsterdam's Bimhuis and at Rotterdam's Lantaren Venster to record these profound performances of free improvisation.
Escreet, John (w/ Evan Parker / John Hebert / Tyshawn Sorey)
The Unknown (Live in Concert)
Label: Sunnyside Records
Released in: USA
"Part of the attraction of improvised music is the implicit show of trust between musicians as they push off into the unknown. The relationships within a working ensemble determine the music's depth. Pianist John Escreet has established a deep rapport with his trio-mates bassist John Hebert and drummer Tyshawn Sorey over the past decade. On his new recording, The Unknown, Escreet utilizes their unique musical bond and also that of a more recent collaborator, the legendary saxophonist Evan Parker. Taken from live recordings made at European venues Bimhuis and Lantaren Venster, The Unknown reveals the incredible vistas that can be discovered between musicians of vast proficiency and trust."-Sunnyside Records
"Stepping into the void without a map, compass, or guide can be an incredibly scary experience. But the very same scenario can also be liberating. Musicians freed of the shackles of preconceived ideas are the ones, after all, who speak the lingua franca of jazz-improvisation, that is-in its purest dialect. And improvisation doesn't get any truer than when there's a blank canvas to work with. That's all there is to know about The Unknown. Or is it?Early in 2016, pianist John Escreet traveled to Europe for a mini-tour that brought his longstanding trio-with bassist John Hébert and drummer Tyshawn Sorey-into contact with British saxophonist Evan Parker, an icon and maverick in the world(s) of free jazz and improvised music. The band operated without blueprints or borders, and the evidence exists in the two lengthy tracks that make up The Unknown."The Unknown (Part One)" was captured at a concert at The Bimhuis on February 12, 2016. It's a sprawling, forty-five minute performance filled with chill-inducing and spine-tingling sounds and suggestions. But it all grows from baleful beginnings that thicken over the course of its opening. After several minutes, a din of cymbal crashes and other potent intoxicants drive away the demons. Pure zen juxtaposed against low-weight zaniness follows, as Sorey's clanging cymbal bells play against squeaking sonics. Parker's searching sax and Hébert's bass meet up, Escreet joins the party and takes center stage, band-made cacophony carries the music onward, and Sorey gets the spotlight for some rim-centric painting. It's a lot to digest, and that only covers about two-thirds of the performance. The final act of this creation places Hébert's springy bass against Parker's popping saxophone, gives the bassist his due, pairs Sorey's vibraphone with Parker's tenor, and finally departs on a hypnotic wave. It's heady stuff to hear on record, clearly not made for the meek.The second and final track on the album-"The Unknown (Part Two)," recorded one day later at Lantaren Venster in Rotterdam-opens in cagey fashion with short, darting phrases. But madness sits just on the horizon. In no short time, the quartet is running wild. The group tramples everything in its path before the dust settles. Once things calm down, Escreet takes control and a hip groove forms behind him. The core trio then ratchets up the intensity, and just when it seems like things have run there course, Parker swoops in, a deus ex machina with horn in hand. He set the stage on fire before Hébert enters the picture with his calming ostinato and Escreet adds his gentle filigree. Peace ensues, with glistening piano and vibraphone centering and soothing the soul, but war remains in the wind. Parker returns and starts a skirmish with Escreet that throws the whole band into action mode. The toys eventually go winding down, leaving space for Sorey to get wound up for a brief spell before a fingernails-on-chalkboard episode takes the band on a journey to the outer limits. At nearly thirty minutes in length, the track seems compact compared to its predecessor but complete in its own fleshing out of an on-the-spot narrative. Getting to know The Unknown is no easy matter, but it's a rewarding experience for those willing to take the plunge."-Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz
• Show Bio for John Escreet
"Over the course of his career, John Escreet has earned a reputation as one of the most active and diverse pianist/composers working in jazz and improvised music. His prolific output is reflected over the course of 7 diverse and critically acclaimed albums - the most recent being The Unknown which partners his working Trio (with John Hébert on bass and Tyshawn Sorey on drums) with the iconic free-jazz saxophonist Evan Parker.
Bursting on to the scene with his 2008 debut album Consequences, Escreet quickly earned a reputation as one of the most exciting new pianist/composers to have emerged in recent years, with Downbeat magazine proclaiming "John Escreet's recent debut Consequences signals the jumpstart of a new voice in jazz." Similar praise followed for his 2010 sophomore release Don't Fight The Inevitable, of which the New York Times' Ben Ratliff said "... on an ambitious second album, the pianist John Escreet seems to be thinking about where jazz can go next. He's using lots of structure and instrumental texture, cruising through different languages, straight-ahead and free and in between; it's like a tour of the last 25 years of serious jazz." 2011 saw two releases - The Age We Live In, and Exception To The Rule, followed by 2013's Sabotage and Celebration, all of which received widespread international critical acclaim. The latest addition to this impressive catalog is 2014's Sound, Space and Structures.
As well as being a leader of prolific output, Escreet is also a much sought-after sideman. He has toured extensively with Antonio Sanchez's Migration band, recording on his 2013 Cam Jazz release New Life. He has also contributed his pianistic skills to the working bands of David Binney, Amir ElSaffar, Tyshawn Sorey, and Jamie Baum among many others.
In 2009, John was a recipient of the prestigious Chamber Music America New Jazz Works Grant, as well as the CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming in 2011. In 2013, Escreet was commissioned by the Jazz Gallery to write a new work as part of their Residency/Commissions for 2012-2013, for which he wrote an extended work for string quartet and piano trio. 2014 saw John being awarded the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation USArtists International grant to tour with his Quartet, and recently in 2015 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music (ARAM), his Alma Mater - awarded to past students who have distinguished themselves in the music profession and made a significant contribution to it in their particular field.
John continues to forge ahead with multiple projects and recordings, ranging from his Trio, to his Quintet (known as The John Escreet Project), to collaborative projects with Los Angeles-based pop duo KNOWER, to the most recent collaboration with British free-jazz icon Evan Parker, as well as his recent forays into writing extended works for strings."-John Escreet Website (http://www.johnescreet.com/about.php)
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• Show Bio for John Hebert
"John Hebert was born in New Orleans, LA. He attended Loyola University from '90 to '92 where he was awarded with a complete scholarship. In 1992, John moved to the New York State area, completing his formal studies at William Paterson University in New Jersey; he graduated with a B.M. in Jazz Performance in 1994. After graduating, John moved to New York City where he quickly became a highly in demand bassist, both for live performances and studio sessions."-Marc Mommaas (http://www.mommaas.com/JohnHebert.html)
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• 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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• Show Bio for Tyshawn Sorey
"Tyshawn Sorey (born July 8, 1980 in Newark, New Jersey) is an American musician and composer who plays drum set, percussion, trombone and piano.
Since graduating from William Paterson University, Sorey has been a sought-after musician in many different musical idioms. He is both a performer and composer, and has had works reviewed in The Wire, The New York Times, The Village Voice, Modern Drummer and Down Beat. In August 2009, Sorey was given the opportunity to curate a month of performances at the Stone, a New York performance space owned by John Zorn. He was selected as an Other Minds 17 (2012).
Sorey recently completed a Master of Arts in composition at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. In the fall of 2011, he began pursuing doctoral work in composition at Columbia University.
To date, Sorey has released four albums as a leader: That/Not (2007, Firehouse 12 Records), Koan (2009, 482 Music), Oblique (2011, Pi Recordings) and Alloy (2014, Pi Recordings). He has recorded or performed with musicians including Wadada Leo Smith, Steve Coleman, Anthony Braxton, John Zorn, Steve Lehman, Joey Baron, Muhal Richard Abrams, Pete Robbins, Vijay Iyer, Dave Douglas, Butch Morris and Sylvie Courvoisier, among many others."-Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyshawn_Sorey)
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Track 1 recorded live on February 12th, 2016 at The Bimhuis.
Track 2 recorded live on February 13th, 2016 at Lantaren Venster in Rotterdam.
John Hebert-double bass
Evan Parker-tenor saxophone
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1. The Unknown (Part One) 45:09
2. The Unknown (Part Two) 29:38