STAN TRACEY/EVAN PARKER

Suspensions and Anticipations
psi 04.02

Back in the 1950s there was a whole series of records called something like “Jazz Music for People Who Don’t Like Jazz”. This CD could bear a similar subtitle: “An Evan Parker CD for People Who Don’t Like Evan Parker”.

Not that this pioneering exponent of BritImprov has altered his style to make it more listener friendly. But this match-up with pianist Stan Tracey, the 77-year-old iconoclastic British jazzer, finds the 60-year-old Parker — who sticks to tenor saxophone throughout — creating a gentle, balladic disc that may attract those outside of the hardcore Free Improv crowd.

Tracey, who recorded a lyrical trio recasting of Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milkwood” in 1965, is usually classified as a modern jazzman, whatever that means. But in this selection of 11 improvisations, performed moderato or andante, there’s no sense of a complacent mainstreamer mixing it up with a fire-breathing avant-gardist. Instead, the pianist’s improvising is as slyly spiky and as unpredictable as Parker’s tonal explorations.

“Skevington’s Daughter”, for instance, finds Tracey contributing strummed chords and understated glissandos, while Parker’s nuanced overblowing produces unexpected note patterns that skip child-like after the pianist’s bell-like tones. When the reedist turns to circular breathing for a bit, the piano man merely widens his accompanying figures. “Step” finds the saxist introducing polyphonic smears and the occasional key pop as Tracey plays a bolero style rhythm behind him. Then Parker takes off on a series of parallel reed swoops and expansive arpeggios.

Then there’s the title tune where it’s Parker who sounds as if he’s quoting from half-remembered hard bop lines. When the saxist’s output finally turn to trills, flutter-tonguing, honks and dips into the bass clef, Tracey hardens his touch, produces choppy thematic shreds and introduces a frantic left handed portemento sweep.

“Kite”, the slow and stately longest track, finds Tracey holding onto a metronomic beat — until Parker wavers out higher tones and the pianist responds with quick, quasi-stride figure. Soon the saxophonist is slurring and double tonguing new notes, ending with a characteristic circular breathed mewl as Tracey seems to slide along his keys, adagio, creating the same sort of slur.

On his solo feature, honoring Sonny Rollins, Parker sounds like no one but himself, snorting out different reed phrases, then echoing their vibrations through his horn’s body tube. Conversely, on his two solo selections, Tracey appears to be trying different persona on for size. Relying a lot on pedal sustain, emphasized tremolos and repetition, on one he offers up baroque filigree, a double timed suggestion of Monk as well as some speedy Ahmad Jamal-like contrasting dynamics. On the other, his wide expanse of pumping piano is mixed with low frequency relaxed runs. Throughout he works the pedals so that you can hear each note’s reverberation. Coda is a brief right hand tinkle of the highest notes than a final full keyboard crash.

SUSPENSIONS AND ANTICIPATIONS can probably be classified as a CD of interest to everyone — including those who like or don’t like Evan Parker’s playing — as well as those who like or don’t like the playing of Stan Tracey.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. A Nice Slice 2. Nicely Placed 3. Step 4. Knuckle Shuffle 5. Terms and Conditions Apply 6. New Fork (for Newk)] 7. Suspensions and Anticipations 8. Special Purpose 9. Skevington’s Daughter 10. Kite 11. Maggot

Personnel: Evan Parker (tenor saxophone); Stan Tracey (piano)