Wednesday, 9 December 2009

EVAN PARKER – Saxophone Solos


A definition that could never be used for Evan Parker’s playing is “mealy-mouthed”. Whatever the means of expression utilized, the impressions gathered while listening to his unyielding spontaneous discourses mingle in a righteous harmony where distinguishing infinitesimal variations and minute details becomes both useless, a mere exercise of individuation amidst deeper meanings and intuitions, and fundamental as the best ear-training available. For there’s no doubt that every concept expressed by this unrepentant virtuoso must be listened attentively: only by doing so the preternatural qualities of that improvisational combustion are finally disclosed.

Recorded June 1975 at London’s Unity Theatre and, a couple of months later, at Jost Gebers’ FMP Studio in Berlin, the thirteen tracks constitute – unbelievably, given their undamaged modernity – the first attempts by Parker to extirpate the commonplaces of traditional jazz idioms from the instrument (although he’s ready to recognize influences which include, as per his own admission, Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders and John Tchicai as far as certain technical instances are concerned). The control applied to the soprano’s tones is fearsome, the ability of interlocking nastily squealing pitches in the over-acute register with ingeniously impolitic, mercilessly discrepant flurries an incessant source of wonderment. Clearly the man had a vision, and – to quote from him – “you either have a personal voice or you don’t”. This stuff is miraculous in its capacity of letting the listener accept the grace and the ugliness of a timbre, and one knows that a genius is present when the initial unattractiveness turns into something that is essential, necessary in understanding a revelation.

As hard as bearing almost 80 minutes of procedural difficulties is, Parker’s mastery transforms the intricacy in a meditation of sorts. To answer Francesco Martinelli’s question in the liners, Saxophone Solos does contain music that can still speak to today’s listeners, at least those who aren’t yearning for iPods. Actually, the idea here is that the nickname “Bird” has been attributed to the wrong Parker. Save some valuable time to sit on the couch and spend your rational energies to wander across the acerbic spirals drawn by this path-opening creative thinker three decades and a half ago.