"We play to the informed listener. We don't play to the person who's tumbled in for the first time. We're not looking to make it easy." Evan Parker, 2003.
The music on Parker's Psi label, particularly his own, remains faithful to the spirit of the quote above. To get the most out of Parker, one should be prepared to invest some time. Such investment is repaid many times over. More than most, Parker's musical universe can seem self-contained, to be judged only by its own criteria. However, familiarity with (some of) his other recordings can greatly enhance one's appreciation. Thankfully, Parker continues to make good on his promise to re-release all of his Incus recordings on Psi. They are vital recordings in their own right, and their absence from the catalogue has hampered a full appreciation of Parker's work.
Originally recorded and released in 1986, The Snake Decides
is the last of Parker's solo soprano sax recordings from Incus to be released on CD. It was recorded direct to a two-track master and documents four improvisations recorded in real time with no trickery. (It is always worth saying that, as new listeners often don't believe it.)
The title track is the longest, at almost twenty minutes. Although its title refers to a woodcut of the same name by George Murphy, it provides a ready-made excuse to focus on the serpentine qualities of Parker's soprano playing. His relentlessly energetic flurries of notes defy logic or reason, seeming to spiral and to tie themselves in knots and coils. If you are seeking to invest some time in Parker's music, I humbly suggest playing this album back-to-back with Lines Burnt in Light
, Parker's solo soprano sax album from 2001. The contrasts are fascinating and reveal the ongoing development of the ever-changing Parker. It is a delight to welcome The Snake Decides
back. Highly recommended.