My level of expectation for a new release by the trio of Evan Parker, Barry Guy and Paul Lytton is always high. These British gentlemen are masters of free improvisation and have collaborated together for almost forty years in many groups, like Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers' Orchestra and the more recent New Orchestra and Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. They have criss-crossed over the years in duos, trios and trios augmented by like-minded improvisers such as pianists Marylin Crispell and Alexander von Schlippenbach. But, still, Zafiro shines relative to their extensive discographies.
Zafiro documents a concert by the trio at l'Auditori in Barcelona, Spain on March 2006 before an attentive audience, this after months where the three had not played together. From the first second of the concert, Parker, Guy and Lytton burst with fresh, energetic intensity, but at the same time they sound relaxed and unrestrained, as if they are letting the rare musical process to carry them organically, and not the other way around. The triooften fractured into duo and solo constellationsis still determined to face and explore the stimulating course of free improvisation, but in a manner that establishes itself as a unified musical identity.
And indeed the high level of communication and emphatic interplay among all threeplus their inexhaustible will to delve into the moment and their experience, wisdom and virtuosic playingsparks the music from beginning to end. Their instrumental expression is quite recognizable by now, but the boundaries between their voices sometimes gets blurred as Guy slaps the strings and hits the double bass, Lytton bows the cymbals, and Parker slaps percussive sound from his saxophones.
The dense texture of the opening flows easily into a more abstract and inventive duo between Guy and Lytton, both rumbling on the strings and skins; than Parker's tenor sax joins in and the flow of music becomes at the first melodic, almost song-like, and then more dramatic and explosive interplay, eventually dissolving into a spare percussion solo that toys with metallic sounds. Guy takes the lead with unorthodox arco techniques on the bass, soon joined by Parker, who demonstrates his circular breathing on an impressive almost soprano sax solo. Guy and Lytton join again and counterpart Parker's angular lines.
A tense and short duo between Guy and Lytton follows, focusing on lingering percussive tones, and than Parker joins the two with his soprano sax and the trio sails naturally into its most forceful interplay, sounding like a striking dispute among all three until the standing ovation. The encore is much more relaxed and emphatic; all three ascend quickly into inevitable, energetic and tight playing that demonstrates, again and again, the sophistication and creativity of the musical language of this trio.
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Personnel: Evan Parker: soprano and tenor saxophone; Barry Guy: double bass; Paul Lytton: drums and