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Evan Parker/ Matthew Shipp: Rex, Wrecks & XXX

John Sharpe By

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Few barriers remain in jazz. Certainly not geographical or generational. Even genre does not present insurmountable obstacles. Were it needed, further confirmation arrives in the shape of a meeting between two distinctive stylists: American pianist Matthew Shipp and English saxophone iconoclast Evan Parker. Far from being their first encounter, the pair know each other well, having waxed Abbey Road Duos (Treader, 2007), collaborated during the saxophonist's October 2010 residency at the Stone in New York City, and appeared in duet at the 2011 Vision Festival. What's more piano/saxophone duets form a significant strand in the Shipp's discography (Rob Brown, Roscoe Mitchell, Darius Jones, Ivo Perelman and Sabir Mateen being just some of his partners), and are far from unknown in Parker's (Stan Tracey, Georg Graewe and Agusti Fernandez).

No surprise then that Rex, Wrecks & XXX, comprising two discs, one recorded in the studio and the other live (at London's Vortex) the following day, documents a spontaneous dialogue of the highest order. Deep listening underpins the congruency of pacing and dynamics, and even sometimes phrasing, making for a more harmonious pairing than the avant-garde reputations might suggest. Both Shipp and Parker work in a syntax of repeated motifs and sonic cells, which themselves prompt further rejoinders in a process of continual calibration. They don't settle on any particular mode of expression for more than a few minutes, but at times become surprisingly reflective, as an air of abstract lyricism pervades both sessions, perhaps most prevalent in the concert setting.

Shipp is the more likely to lock into nagging patterns which furnish the substructure, although he leavens the repetition with delicate prancing sweetness as well as unpredictable outbursts of thunderous tumult. Parker restricts himself to tenor saxophone throughout (his jazzier horn), although he reins in the split toned dissonance for which he is so well known, in favor of a mellow considered output. Of course there are passages where the Englishman's guttural machine-gun delivery begets a rapidfire rhythmic response from Shipp, but they occur as occasional peaks not expansive plateaus. Unaccompanied features for each transpire both in the studio and live, and while they provide a welcome contrast, they do not reveal anything not already known. The eight studio cuts allow greater opportunity for concision and structure than the unbroken live set, notably on "Rex 5" which alternates piano and tenor, as they conjure a golden thread, each picking up where the other left off. The ghost of Thelonious Monk stalks proceedings when Parker touches on the interval of "Shuffle Boil" and Shipp responds almost in kind. Mercurial, playful discourse which erases boundaries, real or imagined.

Track Listing: Rex 1; Rex 2; Wrecks 1; Rex 3; Wrecks 2; Rex 4; Rex 5; Rex 6; XXX.

Personnel: Matthew Shipp: piano; Evan Parker: tenor saxophone.

Title: Rex, Wrecks & XXX | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Rogue Art

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