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Evan Parker's monolithic 1978 solo record Monoceros was originally released on Incus and has subsequently been digitally remastered for CD release on Chronoscope. Monoceros distinguishes itself in several respects: first, because it was recorded by the direct-cut process, whereby the sound pathway went directly from the microphone to a vinyl master. By virtue of eliminating the tape intermediate, the hope was to reduce noise and limit the need for processing and filters. The important functional consequence of this technology was that the musician (and the technicians) had to get it right the first time. In the context of free improvisation, direct-cut served as self-imposed discipline for purists only. In the present day, this process is mostly obsolete.
On Monoceros, Parker explores a wide range of soprano saxophone work, though most of it is hardly recognizable as such: squeaking, squawking, and birdlike noises persist throughout. The first piece on the record spans a long 21 minutes of essentially uninterrupted solo saxophone, facilitated by Parker's exceptional technical command of the instrument: circular breathing, triple-tonguing, false fingering, etc. The guiding principle of this music, as realized by Parker, was to use technical prowess to remove the barriers between the sounds in his head and the sounds coming from his horn. Generations of saxophone players who followed in Parker's footsteps owe a huge debt to his innovations on the instrument. Indeed, none of Monoceros is easy listening: Parker seems driven to play as freely and outspokenly as possible.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.