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Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Paint (Hot Cup)

The first release by the piano trio configuration of Mostly Other People Do the Killing and features bassist/composer Moppa Elliott, pianist Ron Stabinsky, and drummer Kevin Shea, with each composition named after a small town in Pennsylvania that contains a color, and the town of "Paint, PA" lent its name to the title, with one apt Duke Ellington cover. ... Click to View


Moppa Elliott : Still, Up In The Air (Hot Cup)

Solo double-bass improvisations from Mostly Other People Do the Killing bassist and leader Moppa Elliot, consisting of sequences of contrasting themes, or musical cubism in the spirit of Picasso and Braque, presenting 7 of 14 sequences where the improvisation is a series of disparate musical ideas that transition rapidly in an attempt to disrupt the linear progression of thematic development. ... Click to View


Leandre / Minton: Leandre / Minton (Fou Records)

Phil Minton started as a trumpeter and became one of free improv's most outside vocalists; Joelle Leandre is a double bassist who also performs free vocal improv; this is their first recorded collaboration, and it's an unusual and wonderful album of heavy tone improvisation, plucked and bowed, and a masterfully odd free association of vocalisation. ... Click to View


Talibam! : Endgame Of The Anthropocene [VINYL] (ESP)

Talibam!'s 1st cinematic album of through-composed ecogothic geosonics, the "soundtrack to 2048's despotic nationalism and crumbling international infrastructure, underscoring an eco-mercantilistic tragedy and the desperate plundering of the last pristine landscape on Earth" from NY's duo of Matt Mottel on mini moog and synths, and Kevin Shea on drums, and midi mallet percussion. ... Click to View


Talibam! / Matt Nelson / Ron Stabinsky: Hard Vibe [VINYL] (ESP)

Talibam! with Matt Mottel on sax, Kevin Shea on drums, Matt Mottel on Fender Rhodes and synth and Ron Stabinsky on organ take inspiration from Herbie Hancock's 70's electronics, Miles Davis' "On the Corner" and Albert Ayler's New grass in compositions that transforms aspects of rhythm changes into a disciplined sequence, a new take on psychedelic jazz. ... Click to View


Crys Cole / Oren Ambarchi: Hotel Record [VINYL 2 LPs] (Black Truffle)

A double LP and the second release from the duo of Crys Cole and Oren Ambarchi, also romantic partners, as they explore their relationship through sound and voice, each side presenting a unique approach to their collaboration while maintaining a certain somnambulist feeling over rich guitar and organ work, and other unfathomable sound. ... Click to View


Boneshaker (Mars Williams / Paal Nilssen-Love / Kent Kessler): Thinking Out Loud (Trost Records)

The third album from this international trio of powerful improvisers--Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, Chicago bassist Kent Kessler, and Chicago/NY saxophonist Mars William-- in four odysseys that take the listener from introspective playing to out and out blowing, using technique to serve their incredible dialog. ... Click to View


Sven-Ake Johansson / Alexander Von Schlippenbach : Schraubenlieder [VINYL] (Trost Records)

Drummer Sven-Ake Johansson is also a poet, writer and visual artist; here he joined forced with Alexander von Schlippenbach in 1988 to record these songs, never previously released, sung in German and English, for a set of 9 fascinating narrations that engage the listener independent of language, as von Schlippenbach improvises with prodigious technique. ... Click to View


Annette Peacock & Paul Bley: Dual Unity (Bamboo)

Reissuing the debut album by vocalist Annette Peacock and pianist Paul Bley recorded during their first European tour in 1970, in a quartet with compatriots Mario Pavone on bass and Laurence Cook on drums, Bley using an early Moog synthesizer; unique and original avant jazz. ... Click to View


Paul Bley Trio: Closer [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Paul Bley's 2nd ESP album from 1966, a lyrical and lush trio setting with material mostly from Carla Bley, one Ornette Coleman number, and one from Annette Peacock, with Steve Swallow on bass and Barry Altschul on percussion, exploratory free jazz that uses melodic intention in assertive but not aggressive aways; a classic. ... Click to View


Pharoah Sanders : Quintet [VINYL] (ESP)

A vinyl reissue of Pharoah Sanders' 1965 debut release on ESP, in a quinet with Jane Getz on piano, William Bennett on bass, Stan Foster on trumpet and Mavin Pattillo on percussion, decidedly a jazz album from this outside player known for his association with John Coltrane in his freeist moments, here bridging lyrical and avant worlds with powerful playing. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Najwa (Tum)

Paying tribute to musicians whose vision paved the way for modern creative players to use new approaches, language and philosophy in improvisation, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's band with four guitarists, electric bass, drums and percussion dedicates five incredible compositions to Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Ronald Shannon Jackson, and Billie Holiday. ... Click to View


Wadada Smith Leo: Solo - Reflections And Meditations On Monk (Tum)

An intimate album of solo trumpet from Wadada Leo Smith, performing compositions by Thelonious Monk, Smith professing in an essay in the accompanying booklet that he was motivated to become a composer by Monk above other contemporaries for his ideas of composition and bands; his admiration and love of Monk's work is clear in this beautifully lyrical album. ... Click to View


Aki Takase / Alexander von Schlippenbach: So Long, Eric! Homage to Eric Dolphy (Intakt)

Alexander von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase assembled an ensemble of Dolphy interpreters that includes bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, saxophonist Tobias Delius, vibraphonist Karl Berger, trumpeter Axel Dorner, trombonist Nils Wogram, &c, for a fresh take on compositions from one of free jazz's most iconic composers, Eric Dolphy, captured live in Berlin, 2014. ... Click to View


Steve Noble / Yoni Silver: Home (Aural Terrains)

The two-headed snake on the cover of this album aptly describes the sublimely sinuous and dark interplay between London free jazz drummer Steve Noble and bass clarinetist Yoni Silver, their 4-part improvisation taking on sinister elements of exceptional cymbal techniques, unusual drum tones, and extended lower register tones and high harmonics; excellent. ... Click to View


Various Artists: Asian Meeting Recordings #1 (Doubtmusic)

Otomo Yoshihide started The Asian Meeting Festival in 2005 to foster creative interaction between Japanese and other Asian musicians, since 2014 curated by DJ Sniff, and here in the 2017 edition at GOK Sound, in Tokyo, Japan with a who's-who of players including Yoshihide, Ryoko Ono, Ko Ishikawa, Son X, KEITO, Yuji Ishihara, Yuen Chee Wai, &c. &c. ... Click to View


Jim Black Trio: The Constant (Intakt)

A beautiful example of the modern piano trio, led by in-demand drummer, Jim Black, with Elias Stemeseder the pianist and Thomas Morgan on bass, in a lyrical album that uses Black's compelling and elusive drumming on 9 original Black compositions and one unexpected standard, as all three deliver complex playing that sounds accessible and engaging, a true achievement. ... Click to View


Fred Frith / Barry Guy: Backscatter Bright Blue (Intakt)

Both bassist Barry Guy and guitarist Fred Frith are key artists of Switzerland's Intakt label catalog, but surprisingly the two have never shared a stage together; Intakt had a feeling about their pairing and brought them into the studio, this superb duo album being the result in 10 brilliant tracks intertwining acoustic double bass and electric guitar. ... Click to View


Fred Frith Trio: Another Day in Fucking Paradise (Intakt)

Proclaiming that he nothing more in mind then getting together with a couple of formidable musicians, guitarist Fred Frith and Mills College alumni Jordan Glenn on drums and Jason Hoopes on electric and double bass take their listeners through 13 connected pieces that reference rock, jazz and ea-soundscape in an impressive album from a remarkable new group. ... Click to View


Lotte Anker / Fred Frith: Edge Of The Light (Intakt)

An intimate dialog between frequent collaborators, UK guitarist Fred Frith and Copenhagen saxophonist Lotte Anker, both players listening carefully as they interact in a fragile dialog of profound technique and inventive approach, using texture and nuance to create unusual and captivating interchanges that demonstrate how compatible these two very different instruments can be. ... Click to View


Schlippenbach Trio (Schlippenbach / Evan Parker / Lovens): Features (Intakt)

The long-standing Schlippenbach Trio with Evan Parker on saxophone and Paul Lovens on drums presents 15 concise "Features", improvisations of great depth and diversity, from the beautifully stark solo piano that opens the album to intense collective interactions, avoiding excess in deference to the profound expression of an inspiring group chemistry. ... Click to View


Mark Dresser : Modicana [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Double Bassist Mark Dresser, a mainstay of the Downtown NY scene as an improviser and composer, and also prominent on the US West Coast and as an international touring artist, releases a powerful album of distinctive solo playing, both technically and melodically, with 2 tracks caught live at the Umea Jazz Festival and others recorded at the University of California, San Diego. ... Click to View


Bobby Bradford / Hafez Modirzadeh / Ken Filiano / Royal Hartigan: Live at the Magic Triangle [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

A live concert at Amherst, Massachusetts in 2016 as part of the Magical Triangle Jazz Series from the quartet of legendary cornetist Bobby Bradford, Turkish saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh on tenor, in-demand New York bassist Ken Filiano, and percussionist/drummer Royal Hartigan, the band performing two Bradford compositions, with one each from Filiano, Modirzadeh and Hartigan. ... Click to View


Andrew Lamb / Warren Smith / Arkadijus Gotesmanas: The Sea of Modicum [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Captured live at the 2016 Vilnius Jazz Festival, the free jazz trio of saxophonist Andrew Lamb and percussionists Warren Smith and Arkadijus Gotesmanas provide a unique orchestration, with the percussionists building rhythmic structures over which AACM alumni Lamb's powerful saxophone work emerges; a great album of solid exploratory free jazz. ... Click to View


Yedo Gibson / Hernani Faustino / Vasco Trilla: CHAIN (NoBusiness)

A fiery and energetic album of masterful free jazz from Brazilian saxophonist Yedo Gibson, Portuguese-Brazilian drummer and percussionist Vasco Trilla, and Portuguese bass player Hernani Faustino (Red Trio, K4 Quadrado Azul), recording in the studio for 6 dynamic dialogs that uses a variety of approaches and references to free jazz and creative improv. ... Click to View


TON-KLAMI (Midori Takada / Kang Tae Hwan / Masahiko Satoh): Prophesy of Nue (NoBusiness)

Ton-Klami was an influential Japanese free improvising band active in the 90s, and leading to the solo careers of percussionist Midori Takada, pianist Masahiko Satoh, and saxophonist Kang Tae Hwan; here the band is heard in a 1995 live concert recorded at Design Plaza Hofu in Yamaguchi, Japan, recorded by Chap-Chap Records but never released. ... Click to View


Liudas Mockunas : Hydro [VINYL] (NoBusiness)

Lithuanian reedist Liudas Mockunas in an unusual record of clarinet and saxophone improvisations, from solo work of powerful technique to pieces using water prepared instruments to create a wealth of bubbling and aberrant sound on the instrument, side A presenting the 7 part "Hydration Suite", Side B the 3 part "Rehydration", and "Dehydration". ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


James Ulmer Blood W/ The Thing: Baby Talk [VINYL] (The Thing Records)

The Thing with Mats Gustafsson on tenor and baritone sax, Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten on electric and double bass, and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums and percussion, are joined by Downtown NY legend, guitarist James Blood Ulmer, for a live set at the Moldel International Jazz Festival in 2015 performing an exuberant and all-out impressive set of Ulmer composions. ... Click to View


Sun Ra & His Myth Science Solar Arkestra: The Lost Arkestra Series Vol 1 & 2 [2 10-INCH VINYL RECORDS] (Art Yard)

A double 10" featuring unreleased and rare Sun Ra recordings, including a live track from Paris in 1983, two unreleased cuts from the "Disco 3000" concert tapes, a quartet session with Sun Ra on the Crumar Mainman synth, and three selections from the Sub-Underground series of Saturn LPs, including a ballad and new material from "Live at Temple" and "What's New". ... 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 Brtzmann 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 Brtzmann 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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