EVAN PARKER/TONART ENSEMBLE

Brot & Honig
True Muze TUMU CD 0003

With an attitude that might well be "have improvisation will travel", British saxophone innovator Evan Parker has brought his horns and prodigious technique to many countries over the past 35 years, working in ensembles ranging from duos to big bands.

BROT & HONIG is a souvenir of one of his more recent forays: a five day trip to Hamburg, Germany last year to collaborate for the first time with this 13-piece improvisers collective. The results, while fine music, are a bit surprising. For of the two lengthly compositions performed by the group, the one "composed" by Parker sounds more like modern, so-called legitimate (i.e. classical) music, while the other, created by TonArt violinist Nicola Kruse appears to be pure improv.

Parker's title tune is mostly a tutti exercise, with all the instruments more-or-less playing together in quiet, near conventional harmony for the first 23 or so minutes, before breaking the tune down into more elastic time. Moreover such instrumentalists as Kruse exhibit very legit tones as their parts unroll, making the overall connotation sound more muted than it should be.

True excitement shines through on "Syrah & Papidoux", however. Here at last the TonArt shows itself capable of replicating the sound and imagination of a much larger free ensemble such as the London Jazz Composers Orchestra, of which Parker is a founding member. Not that group expression is ignored, but as opposed to the "classical" conception of "Brot & Honig", with everyone playing at the same time, here other musicians usually function as a swelling chorus behind the diverse soloists.

Distinct voices express themselves in a variety of ways, with Klammer and Nitz's quivering percussion coloring the proceeding, Haase's banjo coming across as a sort of de-tuned guitar and Gödecke revealing himself as an resourceful slide man, playing off against an orchestral backdrop.

Pulse-quickening excitement juices up the second half of the tune with some of the other horns ricocheting riffs off Parker's every expanding and contracting soprano tone. At times the melange of brass, reeds, bass and percussion begins to resemble the empathetic interaction the saxophonist enjoys with longtime mates bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton. Augmenting to a climax, the tune then serenely disappears following writhing vibes pulses and bowed bass notes.

The fact that Parker selflessly doesn't insist on returning to have the last word, or note, offers insight into his creative process. It also pinpoints why his foreign partnerships are usually so fruitful.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Brot & Honig 2. Syrah & Papidoux

Personnel: Heinz-Erich Gödecke (trombone, didgeridoo); Hannes Wienert (sax trumpet, soprano saxophone); Claudius Molter (flute, alto flute, piccolo); Evan Parker (soprano saxophone); Heiner Metzger (clarinet, alto clarinet, alto saxophone, synthersizer); Georgia Ch. Hoppe (bass clarinet, hybrid clarinet, electric guitar); Ole Hoffmann (baritone saxophone); Nicola Kruse (violin, tenor violin); Ulla Levens (violin); Michael Haase (banjo); Alexander Dannullis (acoustic guitar); Peter Niklas Wilson (bass); Harry Nitz (vibraphone, percussion); Robert Klammer (percussion)