Lines Burnt in Light
PSI 01.01

As soon as you hear one note from his horn you’re immediately projected into the soundworld of Evan Parker.

That’s because the British reedman has spent nearly 35 years creating a very personal and particular tone. He has tested, tempered and treated it in aggregations as colossal as the Globe Unity Orchestra and as miniscule as his trio with bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton, and with as many others as possible.

He’s also one pioneer of solo saxophone improvisations, and this, his first solo saxophone record in several years, is also the initial release on his own PSI imprint.

Named for the Psi phenomena, which he’s convinced is the heart of improvised music making, this CD also marks a return to label ownership, a role that he has avoided since 1985, when his 15-year partnership with Derek Bailey in Incus dissolved. And what a debut it is. Almost 62½-minutes long, it’s divided among three improvisations of more than 12, more than 22 and more than 27 (!) minutes.

As always the most jaw-dropping — or is it lip-pursing — aspect of Parker’s work is how he keeps going for such an extended period of time. Also, unlike the breed of reed athletes who seem to see circular breathing as one more entry in the book of World records, Parker, like his initial influence, John Coltrane, brings an endless supply of ideas to his wind gymnastics.

Listen to any of the tracks here, and while the primary fascination can be with the assembly line of notes that keep pouring from his horn after he takes that first breath, what keeps your interest is the shading and textures of the product. Obviously it’s a soprano saxophone you’re hearing — it says so on the back panel — but as he works his way through the peaks and valleys of the improvisations other sounds suggest themselves as well. String overtones appear to present cascades among the twittering notes at certain points, brass allusions are implied at others, and there’s even the hint of percussion at certain times. Is it any wonder that many younger improvising reedists acknowledge Parker as a force of nature with which they must deal? If any of them can metaphorically grow a tree in their solos, then he has already created a forest.

Interestingly enough, Parker has recorded several electro-acoustic projects over the past few years as a way to extend his range. But on this disc, recorded live in a London church with no overdubbing, no treatments, no processing and very much in real time, he’s perhaps proved the primacy of humans over electronics. Highlighting the speed at which creations can now get to the public moreover, the performance was recorded in October of 2001.

Moving into his sixth decade, the saxophonist doesn’t appear to be slowing down in any way. Still producing music that’s often beyond category posits that many more surprises may appear down the road.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. LINE 2. LINE 2 3.LINE 3

Personnel: Evan Parker (soprano saxophone)