Alexander Hawkins Feat. Evan Parker + Riot Ensemble: Togetherness Music (For Sixteen Musicians)

Mark Corroto By

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Alexander Hawkins Feat. Evan Parker + Riot Ensemble: Togetherness Music (For Sixteen Musicians)
It is obvious from the outset that this is a significant recording. Evan Parker launches into his trademark soprano saxophone circular breathing, setting the stage for things to come. An exemplar of all things free improvisation, his virtuosity never fails to amaze. Although Parker is the marquee soloist here, the composer and organizer of this session, Alexander Hawkins, created the six movements of this suite to pioneer an intersection between free improvisation and contemporary chamber music. Certainly not an easy task, but with Parker, with whom he has collaborated for over a decade, everything is possible. We can cite their duo, Leaps In Leicester (Clean Feed, 2016) and Parker's Sant'Anna Arresi Quintet Filu 'E Ferru (2015) as examples of the chemistry the two share. Hawkins' touchstones here are Anthony Braxton's Ghost Trance Music, Butch Morris' Conductions, Roscoe Mitchell's contemporary ensemble recordings, and Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble ECM recordings. Togetherness Music is, though, a different beast altogether. Hawkins pairs improvising artists like Parker, Rachel Musson and Mark Sanders with electronic sound artist Matthew Wright and The Riot Ensemble, a contemporary music quintet. The outcome is not quite fusion nor coexistence, it is more like an amalgam, the equivalent of alchemy & transmutation, turning lead into musical gold.

Hawkins achieves this effect by proffering his concepts with the help of conductor Aaron Holloway-Nahum, who cues both the noted and improvising musicians. The second movement contrasts the first with an improvised duo between percussionist Mark Sanders and trumpeter Percy Pursglove, plus minimal electronic effects. The pair wrangle energized sounds until The Riot Ensemble enters with pacifying (written) music. The juxtaposition of the two integrates without conflict. As the performance progresses, this merger between scored music and improvisation grows more sympathetic. "Ensemble Equals Together" branches from chamber music into improvisation, as Parker's saxophone returns. Hawkins himself takes on a piano solo ,"Leaving The Classroom Of A Beloved Teacher," set against the marching cartoon-like pulse of the string quintet, which eventually gives way to a flurry and hubbub of various improvisers. The final movement, "Optimism Of The Will," may be the best encapsulation of Hawkins' concept; the music germinates from Wright's electronic seeds plus Neil Charles' bass and Sander's percussion, adding trumpet, piano, saxophone and the remaining sixteen musicians into the vortex of sound to create both a current and countercurrent of sound.

Track Listing

Indistinguishable from Magic; Sea No Shore; Ensemble Equals Together; Leaving the Classroom of a Beloved Teacher; Ecstatic Baobabs; Optimism of the Will.


Alexander Hawkins: piano; Mark Sanders: drums; Matthew Wright: electronics; Evan Parker: saxophone; Rachel Musson: saxophone, tenor; Percy Pursglove: trumpet; Hannah Marshall: cello; Louise McMonagle: cello; Marianne Schofield: bass, acoustic; Neil Charles: bass, acoustic; James Arben: flute; Benedict Taylor: viola; Stephen Upshaw: viola; Mandhira de Saram: violin; Marie Schreer: violin.

Additional Instrumentation

Aaron Holloway-Nahum: conductor; James Arben: bass clarinet.

Album information

Title: Togetherness Music (For Sixteen Musicians) | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Intakt Records

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