In 1968 Miles Davis' use of the Fender Rhodes electric piano on Filles de Kilimanjaro caused quite s stir. This same year saw a seminal classical/electronic music release entitled Switched on Bach by Walter (now Wendy) Carlos, a set of Johann Sebastian Bach compositions played on the then-new music synthesizer. 1968 was also the year the Beatles pioneered the use of studio wizardry on songs like "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "I Am the Walrus." The point being this: jazz has a strong streak of conservatism, and it has lagged a bit behind the curve on bringing electronic tweakings into its sound.
It seems jazz is trying to catch up in that field now, with the very successful incorporation of samples and loops into an acoustic realm by—to name just two—Dave Douglas and Mathew Shipp.
With Memory/Vision, soprano saxophonist Evan Parker has more than incorporated electronica; he's used it as a foundation of his music, and at the risk of sounding like a conservative curmudgeon, it doesn't work.
The Electro-Acoustic Ensemble is saxophonist Parker's core quartet of sax, piano, bass and violin, with four electronic/computer specialists mixed in, stirring up an atmosphere almost completely lacking in any type of organic vibrancy. Perhaps that's the point, but it's not a good one. The experience is one of droning soundscapes and electro knocks and rattles, twitters and blips, computer squeals and washes of dead grey noise, like a soundtrack to a science fiction movie exploring some grim themes of societal degeneration.
Four electronics/computer specialists is about three too many. It's an interesting listen for a spin or two—this, in some form, may be the next big thing in jazz—but ultimately the disc seems destined to collect dust.
Visit ECM Records on the web at www.ecmrecords.com .
Personnel: Evan Parker--soprano saxophone; Philipp Wachsmann--violin, electronics; A. Fernandez--piano, prepared piano; Barry Guy--double bass; Lawrence Casserley--signal processing instrument; Joel Ryan--computer, sound processing; Walter Prati--electronics, sound processing; Marco Vecchi--sound processing, electronics