Derek Bailey / Han Bennink / Evan Parker: Topographie Parisienne

Mark Corroto By

Sign in to view read count
Derek Bailey / Han Bennink / Evan Parker: Topographie Parisienne
This analogy between free improvisation and human nature seems appropriate. Some people, seeing a burning building, will flee for their lives, while others run straight into the building. Mention the names of any member of this trio—Derek Bailey, Han Bennink or Evan Parker—to listeners and they either give a big hoorah or make a break for it.

Now that we've cleared with room of runners, let those that remain rejoice in a rare recording of these improvisation masters together. Besides Topographie Parisienne there is only the seminal trio recording The Topography Of The Lungs (Incus, 1970), which would later be a reissued CD by psi in 1986 and LP from Otoroku in 2018. Various duos can be found, Bailey/Parker's The London Concert (psi, 2005) and Arch Duo (Rastascan Records, 1999), Parker/Bennink's The Grass Is Greener (psi, 2002) and Derek Bailey & Han Bennink (Incus, 1972). Where this Paris live date from April 3, 1981 has been is anyone's guess. Needless to say, when you are running into a fire you don't ask questions.

The music presented here can be broken down into two lengthy trio blocks, five duos, and two solo performances by Parker. Sorting out the group dynamics and character struggles between the players (all head-strong folk) is better left to personal friends/musicians and maybe a psychoanalyst. But it is great fun to witness the push/pull of master free improvisers exerting their will and responding to the impulses of their partners. Bennink plays the part of the eternal prankster, never content to remain at his drum kit. He blows a bulbous trombone, some clarinet, tortures a harmonica, and even hammers at a piano, which Parker comments on as rubbish. Except for the first duo in CD1, the mix is quite good. Maybe it is just that Bailey is playing acoustic guitar here, that he gets lost in to tumult of Parker's saxophone and Bennink's mayhem.

By 1981, each of these musicians were fully developed and their sound was familiar territory to devotees. This set carried none of the "shock of the new" that The Topography Of The Lungs possessed. Nonetheless, the sound sizzles with energy. Bennink's modus operandi is to always push his partners into new territories. The energy jazz he coaxes from Bailey could be taken as a lesson plan for Nels Cline, and may be the highlight of the recording. Parker is another case, his stoicism endures, sort of. His trademark circular breathing remains a treasure and he perseveres while Bennink entertains the audience with whistling, bass clarinet squawk and visual jokes. The three and three quarter hours of music is never repetitive and always entertaining. It is a great reason to run into a burning building of free improvisation.

Track Listing

CD1: DB-HB-EP Trio; DB-EP Duet; CD2: DB-HB-EP Trio; EP Solo; CD3: DB-EP Duet; EP Solo; HB-EP Duet; CD4: DB- HB Duet; HB EP Duet.


Derek Bailey: guitar; Han Bennink: drums, clarinet, harmonica, trombone, piano; Evan Parker: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone.

Album information

Title: Topographie Parisienne | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Fou Records

Post a comment about this album


Shop Amazon


Jesup Wagon
James Brandon Lewis
Songs For Tracy
Frank Macchia
Richard X Bennett
All Without Words: Variations Inspired by Loren
John Daversa Jazz Orchestra Featuring Justin...
Global Entry
Gabriel Evan Orchestra
Live At The Club Polnischer Versager
Casserley / Illvibe / Morgan / Sjostrom


All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded albums and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, limited reopenings and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary step that will help musicians and venues now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the sticky footer ad). Thank you!

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.