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Evan Parker: Waterloo 1985

Robert Spencer By

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The intoxicating spirit of the kind of "free" improvisation that this disc exemplifies comes from the in-the-moment interplay between the players, a microscopic call-and-response activity that creates a music of flows, eddies, tensions, and releases. Over the single hour-long track on this disc, Evan Parker , Paul Rutherford, Hans Schneider, and Paul Lytton play undulating music of otherworldly calm, furious sparks and shards of energy music, death-defying leaps and gear changes: in short, an entire thesaurus of melodic, harmonic, dynamic and timbral possibilities, waxing and waning, combining, separating, and recombining, and finally reaching and sustaining the ineffable "magic" that Steve Lacy identified as the essential, the sine qua non of "free" music that is worth hearing.

"Free" belongs in quotation marks because this kind of improvisation is really by no means free. It is bound by the possibilities of the instruments (extended as they may be in the hands of these masters), by the players' own habits of playing and favored stylistic approaches, and by what has just been and already been played in real time. Herbie Hancock once cited an incident during his celebrated stint with the Miles Davis Quintet in which he played a wrong note - staggeringly, immensely wrong, by his account. But Davis, with awesome cool, immediately made Herbie right with his own note choice. This disc is an hour of these four players making each other right, consistently and repeatedly. Davis himself, and many others to this day, might have sneered at this kind of music, charging that a musician in this setting could play virtually anything, and it would sound right.

But listen. Open ears will grasp immediately that that isn't what these players are doing. Listen to any few minutes of group interplay and you will hear hundreds of audible reactions, as one player interacts with another, changing direction at another's musical cue, commenting, augmenting, expanding on what has already been said. Listen to how percussionist Lytton punctuates the solo sections of Parker and of Rutherford. Listen to how Schneider - as a fill-in for Barry Guy, the sleeper of this disc - changes his approach depending on the direction taken by one of the horn men. Listen to how Parker (an unsurpassed master at this) takes up melodic fragments played by others, repeating and transmuting them.

Anyone who listens in this way will recognize that this is music of tremendous excitement. Anyone who listens will recognize that this is a masterwork.

Track listing: Dark Interior (60:50).


Personnel:

Evan Parker, soprano and tenor saxophones; Paul Rutherford, trombone; Hans Schneider, double bass; Paul Lytton, percussion and live electronics.

Title: Waterloo 1985 | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Emanem

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