Mopomoso featuring Evan Parker Trio at The Vortex in London


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Drummer Roger Turner slams a disembodied cymbal back and forth across his floor tom like a particularly ferocious game of air hockey
Evan Parker Trio
The Vortex Jazz club
London, England
November 16, 2008

Fair enough, it's billed as "Mopomoso featuring Evan Parker Trio." But still, a five-hour bill culminating in less than twenty minutes from the man himself would try the stamina of all but the most committed free improv devotees.

Thankfully, with the reputation of the Mopomoso (apparently standing—and I don't think it's a joke— for "MOdernism POst MOdernism SO what?") night firmly established after nearly two decades, it's precisely those free jazz devotees that fill the Vortex tonight.

Of the five (count 'em) support acts, Swift Are The Winds Of Life, though nowhere near as bad as their moniker might imply, are fairly unremarkable despite some strong percussive work from Charlie Collins. And Furt, purveyors of dystopian electronic noisescapes, are disappointing—categorically not because they aren't PROPER JAZZ, but simply because their unrelenting glitch spasms fall short of ground trodden by earlier travellers—from Throbbing Gristle to Autechre.

On a more positive note, Satoko Fukuda (violin) and the wonderful Steve Beresford (piano) make a marvellous pairing, teaming obvious virtuosity and gleeful sonic exploration with considerable spatial awareness—and, best of all, a sense of wit.

Trombonist Alan Tomlinson's trio is a very different but equally arresting proposition, his intense, at times humorous playing matched by a post-punk savagery from boilersuited guitarist Dave Tucker, formerly of The Fall. Equally no-holds-barred is drummer Roger Turner, at one point slamming a disembodied cymbal back and forth across his floor tom like a particularly ferocious game of air hockey, at other times attacking his kit with metal chains and even a dining fork.

The clear pre-Parker highlight, however, is the penultimate act, comprising English saxophonist John Butcher and extrovert American percussionist Gino Robair. Robair clearly hails from the Han Bennink school of percussion as playground, visually entertaining as well as thoroughly valid musically. Taking a serrated edge to a cymbal, blowing raspberries into the side of the floor tom and setting what may well be a vibrator loose on the floor, his antics threaten to steal the show.

Then, finally, it's time for Parker, joined by regular double bassist John Edwards and, on acoustic guitar, Mopomoso co-founder John Russell. Though seated, eyes shut throughout, the saxophonist— restricting himself to soprano tonight—is a suitably commanding presence for one regularly, and rightly, hailed as a major figure in modern European jazz.

He's in a relatively mellow mood, showcasing the side heard in his work with Robert Wyatt, for instance, more than with Peter Brötzmann. Yet he still more than holds his own against Edwards' trademark bass GBH, tonight's anti-techniques including forcibly plucking the strings with the heel of the bow and frequent wild palm slaps against the body of the instrument itself. Together with Russell's relatively low-key contribution, it's a first-rate finale, diminished only by its brevity—particularly in the context of such a marathon program.

Visit Evan Parker at All About Jazz.

Visit Mopomoso on the web.

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