Saxophonist Evan Parker may be best known for his trio improv work with bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton. However, he steps out on The Ayes Have It for two separate outings with one-off trio and quartet groups dating from 1983 and 1991.
The first set ("Ayes") documents a set of 1983 London studio recordings with the trio of Parker, bassist Paul Rogers, and exotic percussionist Jamie Muir. Parker seems quite restrained here. He insistently occupies the higher register of the saxophone, coaxing delicate overtones and flitting through repeated small-interval riffing. The tonal balance of the "Ayes" portion of this recording seems strongly biased by percussionist Jamie Muir's preference for the delicate sonorities of bells, metal, and hand toys. Muir's sparse use of these instruments for color (and almost never for timekeeping) works best when the other two players stick to the low end of the dynamic range and the high end of the tonal range.
Things change on the subsequent 1991 quartet recording "The Eyes Have It," a 36-minute extended quartet improvisation. With trombonist Walter Wierbos lending a second lead voice for the first half of the recording, Parker aims for a higher level of intensity. Roughly seven minutes into the piece, Parker spurts manic high-end rockets while Wierbos eggs him on with rapid-fire note clusters and evolving four- or five-note vertical motifs. The interplay that develops reflects a beautifully abstract call-and-response interaction. Meanwhile, bassist Rogers, who was so restrained on the first half of this disc, unleashes a relative fury of energy. Rogers develops and expands motifs that punctuate the horns and tend to spur them onward whenever the group momentum momentarily dips. Likewise, percussionist Mark Sanders performs blistering snare-cymbal combinations that lurch and wriggle their way around the other players' ideas.
It's ironic that two Evan Parker performances could be so dramatically different in approach, tone, and intensity. These differences reflect the personal context of these recordings, and they provide an amazing demonstration of Parker's ability to shoehorn his creativity into whatever niche is available. Yet ironically, despite the influence and contributions of the other players on these tracks, it's Parker's remarkable musical vision that ends up stealing the show. The Eyes Have It is essential listening for any Evan Parker fan, and a fine starting point for afficionado of free improvisation.
Visit Emanem at Emanem on the web. For more information on Evan Parker, visit this page.
Personnel: (1983) Evan Parker: soprano and tenor saxophone; Paul Rogers: bass; Jamie Muir: percussion and toys. (1991) Evan Parker: tenor saxophone; Wolter Wierbos: trombone; Paul Rogers: bass; Mark Sanders: percussion.