Evan Parker Solo 1975 & 1989

Martin Longley By

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Evan Parker

Saxophone Solos



Evan Parker

Conic Sections

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This pair of solo soprano saxophone releases reveals the evolution of Evan Parker's approach to the act of a lonesome recital.

The first three Saxophone Solos were recorded at his 1975 solo debut in London's Unity Theatre. The remainder were laid down three months later at the FMP studio in Berlin. All of these improvisations are dubbed "Aerobatics," working from 1 to 13 (with number 10 being mysteriously absent). The radical difference to Parker's eventual solo style is quite staggering to behold. He hadn't yet developed the dense, cyclical swirlings of his signature sound. Here, Parker is intent on a relentless investigation of sustained high-pitch kettle-whistling tones, expertly manipulated into diamond hardness. He's also using space and restraint between the multiphonic events, often isolating sounds for single-minded savoring. High notes co-exist with low, but not in the weavework that was to develop later.

There's a growling raggedness around his edges, hoarse honks and chattering gushes, sometimes underpinned by droning vocalizations. Parker develops a pulsing, rhythmic momentum, making riffs out of multiphonics, packed with micro-detailed ornamentation. Quick licks, smears, purrs, cheeps, here a Northumbrian smallpipes impersonation, there a blend of throat-singing and Japanese ritual groaning. Or hissing air sounds, wet tongue darting. He plays as if possessed, particularly on the opening trio of London cuts. The listener is right there, on site, as these new approaches are being explored in public. As a younger man, Parker had a frightening energy. His current playing still requires great stamina, but this vintage set can be characterized as a rupturing outburst, directed with steely control.

14 years later, Conic Sections finds Parker at a point where he's arrived at the ceaselessly flowing density that pretty much remains in place to this day. The session grew out of a sudden compulsive need to document the fruits of a particularly fertile playing run and two days later, Parker found himself in Oxford's Holywell Music Room.

Straight away, the space's natural reverb imposed a completely different character when compared to the harsh immediacy of Saxophone Solos. Parker says that this had a pronounced effect on the nature of his improvisations, actually pulling him away from his customary strategies. All of his tics have now been bound together into a merged voice, providing an alternative form of minimalism that can also be, upon tilting the ears, considered as maximalism. Again, there are multiple Conic Sections, but longer stretches leave room for a mere five pieces. Parker's development of circular breathing techniques had now opened up the potential for marathon flowing.

Conic Sections remains a significant work, but the Saxophone Solos comes as a particular revelation, jumping back to a time when Parker was right on the brink of discovering hitherto unheard frequencies.

Tracks and Personnel

Saxophone Solos

Tracks: Aerobatics 1-14.

Personnel: Evan Parker: soprano saxophone.

Conic Sections

Tracks: Conic Sections 1—5.

Personnel: Evan Parker: soprano saxophone.


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