Evan Parker / Paul G. Smyth: Calenture and Light Leaks

Don Phipps By

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The live collaboration of the remarkable English tenor saxophonist Evan Parker and Irish pianist Paul G. Smyth on their album Calenture and Light Leaks is like listening to the piano impressions of Debussy while exploring a gallery of Picassos—pure bliss in action.

There is an airy quality to the abstractions here, like playful sunbeams streaming through a window's light. Parker's playing flows—whether blowing cool legatos or stuttering rapidly on snappy runs across the saxophone's registers. His playing feels like a dip in a calm ocean, where gentle waves break overhead from time to time. There are long arcs and at times he creates series of notes that lift the music momentarily from its reverie and into flights of introspection.

To create effect, Parker sometimes uses circular breathing, a method of blowing notes while breathing in (this of course is not going on simultaneously—Parker and others like Roscoe Mitchell who practice this technique create a reservoir of air in their mouth and blow it into the horn as needed to sustain the tone). A case in point occurs about two-thirds of the way into the title cut, "Calenture and Light Leaks," where Parker creates a spontaneous tone poem over emerging piano bass note rumbles.

Smyth adds plenty of color to the two spontaneous compositions and perfectly accompanies Parker's musings with his own. He sprinkles the keys with a light touch but also explores inside the piano, strumming the strings for atmospherics. However, he's not beyond thundering in the lower keys, but these are subtle and sound like distant thunderstorms rather than some melee. Smyth also employs a gentle dissonance and the harmonic structures he creates suggest a 3 a.m. night walk in some alien terrain.

That both musicians eschew traditional melody or beats for that matter should not be disconcerting. Instead, a music which opens up cerebral and imaginative impulses should be welcomed with open arms.

Track Listing: Calenture and Light Leaks; Baffled, Standing in the Air.

Personnel: Evan Parker: tenor saxophone; Paul G. Smyth: piano.

Title: Calenture and Light Leaks | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Weekertoft

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