Evan Parker

After playing The Longest Night again, I pulled out Evan Parker’s solo soprano saxophone album, accurately labeled Saxophone Solos. This record, and it’s an an L.P. as I have not yet acquired (or come across although I know one exists) a CD version, was picked up about a year after The Longest Night L.P.s but preceeds them chronologically.

There are four cuts on this record, named Aerobatics 1 to 4, and they are well named. For the sound of Parker’s saxophone is as I described below, only without John Stevens to expand the aural scenery with his percussion, all you are left with is the gyrating saxophone.

Much of the music consists of long held tones, but they are far from static. Wobbles and overtones are introduced and without even realizing it you find yourself listening to a far more varied sound than you can imagine possible. Interspersed with these long sections of relatively stately development are passages of high speed multi-note flourishes, again pushing the sonic boundaries directly into the vocal range that is characteristic of much free jazz from Ornette Coleman onward.

In many ways the music reminds me of compositions for electronic tape, specifically atonal (either serial or aleatory) ones, as you might find Stockhausen or Cage constructing. But the vocal quality that come with Evan’s playing gives his improvisations a warmer, more human, quality.

Evan Parker has made dozens of records and I have only four, this one, the two Parker-Stevens collaborations, and a duo concert with guitarist Derek Bailey. His music is not easy to find, especially in America, and I have not yet become such a dedicated fan as to make the necessary effort.

Somehow, I feel I should though.

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