Steve Lacy may hold the Gold for most solo soprano saxophone albums, but Evan Parker, his counterpart on the other side of the Atlantic, comes in a natural second in the fictional competition. Curiously enough the British improvisor’s tenor has been far less served in such a solitary settings, with only one entry thus far (see Chicago Solo ) in his vast catalog to its credit. Still, the logistics of the soprano and Parker’s seemingly effortless ease at conjuring seemingly endless streams of multiphonics on the straight horn are probable causes for the disparity. Originally released on vinyl two decades ago and culled from a concert where acoustics and audio capture were each at a premium the performance visits the saxophonist in superlative form.
The recital commences with a split tone line of twining sine waves that expand and contract in telepathic collusion. Pitch dynamics narrow and redefine themselves more emphatically on the second piece where sliding legato rivulets born of Parker’s compartmentalized tonguing create the sonic semblance of up to three separate voices emanating from the single reed speech center. It’s a feat he’s accomplished innumerable times since, but every fresh hearing never fails to open an aperture into a style of improvisatory expression that is at once wholly alien and intensely mesmerizing. There’s also something strangely subterranean about the flood of sounds, like the rush percolating water through an underground aquifer system enroute to unknown tributaries. The third piece trades tightly braided tones for leaner and more linear phrases, but a vaporous trail of phantom notes still clings to the central line. And so it goes, with the illusion of repetition guiding the momentum, though Parker never explicitly repeats himself.
The saxophonist’s solo concerts have always been the bane of annotators. The very idea of an Evan Parker fake book is akin to the pointless pursuit of counting sand grains on a tropical beach. Attempting to cloak the music in the frail guise of words is frequently just a futile. True appreciation comes in the act of slipping a pair of headphones on and letting the cloven currents of notes course through the ears on a trajectory straight for the mind and heart.