Someone recently told me that they didn't care for outside music, because to really hear what's going on, you have to stop everything and sit inside it. On Evan Parker with Birds, the sax sounder invites you to sit inside an interdimensional aviary while he joins the conversation around him. Indispensable to those conversations, the duo of John Coxon and Ashley Wales produces, alters, and teases the edges with an ambiance not always avian. An outgrowth of their collaboration with Parker as Spring Heel Jack, this session has none of the techno bombast of the Thirsty Ear recordings. Instead, they maintain an unfamiliar intimacy that bears the shimmer of a dream.
"#1 casts Parker in a hyperreal jungle on soprano. He plays it city night bluesy while cyclic sound and undistorted bird chirps appear with a quiet rhythmic stroke of a vibraphone tone. Weaving familiar birdsong patterns into a shapely improvisation, Parker plays with a poetic restraint. The extended techniques splash accent, his mellow musings recall the session's honoree, Steve Lacy, himself enamored of birds.
"#2, a birdsong bouquet of field recordings, treats the ear as Parker lurks on key-tap percussives and darting patterns mixed to blend seamlessly with the warbling choir. Is it Evan or avian? His mastery of the instrument's sound potentials creates camouflage as Parker insinuates himself into soundscape. One briefly played pattern recalls Paul Horn's early studio improvisations with tapes.
"#3 reveals Frankenbird, with harsh electronic tone emanating around natural bird sounds and Parker's percussives sounding like the trudging ornithologists. "#4 brings the warm tenor out against a background of vinyl record hiss and pop. Some bird, some crackle, and a loopy dog loop provide the soundscape for Parker's introverted song. Town square chimes join circling seagulls and Parker pats pads. Returning to a questioning soprano, Parker essays a haunting melody with a minimum of Coxon and Wales' soundscaping: occasional bird bark, record pop, shimmery electronic swell.
Evan Parker with Birds adds a unique title to Parker's voluminous catalogue, as well as documenting the gleeful boundary jackhammering of Coxon and Wales.
Personnel: Evan Parker, soprano and tenor saxophones; John Coxon and Ashley Wales, soundscapes.