Evan Parker is a member of two long standing trios, the Evan Parker Trio with Barry Guy and Paul Lytton, and the Schlippenbach Trio with Alexander von Schlippenbach and Paul Lovens. On very rare occasionssuch as Parker's 50th birthdayall five musicians have gotten together and have even been known to play together as a quintet. I do not know of another time the personnel has been mixed like this. It came about in May 2003, when Schlippenbach replaced Guy on a US tour for the Parker Trio because Guy could not tour for personal reasons.
In a blindfold test, it would be difficult to distinguish large portions of this from the Schlippenbach trio with Paul Lovens, despite claims that Lytton and Lovens are radically different. For instance, on the extended opening piece, "Rejoicing in their hearts over the journey, Lytton sounds as busy and detailed as Lovens ever is; maybe it was intentional, maybe the company dictates that style of play. As an opener, the track is a statement of intent, played at breakneck speed at times but never sacrificing clarity and empathy as a result.
Schlippenbach is simultaneously in the foreground and in support, rhythm player and soloist, everywhere at once, swapping call and response phrases with Parker's tenor. And, as ever, the music is full of surprises. Just as it seems the trio are into an unstoppable charge, they slow right down; Schlippenbach and then Parker each gives a measured, emotionally charged solo, as lovely as you could wish for; it has the structure of jazz, even if it's improv.
Aside from one relatively short solo track each by Schlippenbach and by Parker, the rest of the two hours is all trio music. The standard remains incredibly high. Admirers of the individual musicians will find plenty of their trademarks here to admire and enjoy. (Circular breathing, anyone?) But after a while, one stops marvelling at the individual contributions and wallows in the totality of what they are producing.
The context of this US tour seems a significant factor. It was a big tour, 18 concerts in 30 days across 22 states and 3 Canadian provinces, more like a rock tour than a jazz one. (Hey, aren't those Joshua trees on the cover?) This release presents recordings from two concerts, in New Orleans and Seattle. Significantly, all of the track titles are quoted from the unfinished final chapter of Kafka's America, an outsider's view of the continent, more than somewhat tinged with Kafka's sense of alienation and paranoia. By the time insightful impressionistic sleeve notes are added by WKCR DJ Ben Young, this seems as much a travelogue as an album. All three players sound as if they relished the opportunity to play together with such regularity.
Quite delightful, a fine companion piece to great live Parker albums like 50th Birthday Concert (Leo, 1994) and 2X3=5 (Leo, 2001).
Personnel: Evan Parker (saxophones); Alex von Schlippenbach (piano); Paul Lytton (percussion)