America 2003
psi 04.06/7

Free Music pioneers — reedist Evan Parker, pianist Alexander Von Schlippenbach and percussionist Paul Lytton — would never think of making an “in the tradition” record. Yet this two-CD souvenir of the trio’s 2003 American tour can be heard as the band’s “jazz” record.

Not that anyone plays “Satin Doll” or “Hothouse” or lays down proper bebop riffs. It’s just that within the parameters of individual expression that the three have developed over the years, you can hear echoes of honking R&B saxmen from Parker and boogie-woogie bluescians from Schlippenbach.

An accidental adjustment when Parker and Lytton’s longtime partner, bassist Barry Guy, couldn’t make the tour, the trio fuses two-thirds of that band with two-thirds of the Parker/Schlippenbach group, usually filled out by drummer Paul Lovens. The unexpected results, recorded in New Orleans and Seattle, appear to have produced novel variations. Not only are there trio bits and designated solo spots from the pianist and saxophonist, but there are also sections where the focus is on a Parker-Lytton duo or a Schlippenbach-Lytton duet.

Exposing modern-primitivism, a tune like “To avoid monotony” features low- intensity piano arpeggios that suggest a modern Jimmy Yancy, while the saxist’s jagged snorts and echoing, raw phrases could come from Buddy Tate, early in his career in the Southwest. Lytton’s heavy wooden sticks then add a low rumble from the drum skins.

Solo, Schlippenbach creates a sidelong, rippling effect, along with piano patterns that only graze bebop through affiliation with the individualistic approach of Thelonious Monk, one of the form’s originators. “This blowing of trumpets confused them” finds the recurrent Monkish cast particularly notable, after the pianist begins the piece moving from dark, internal registers to mock, child-like chording exercises. Light-toned swirling cadenzas, backed by the flams and rebounds of Lytton’s snares turn to quicker and quicker chords after Parker enters three-quarters of the way through with a keening soprano line that sounds vaguely Middle Eastern. Eventually it supersedes both the drummer’s rumbles and crashes and the pianist’s note patterning.

More instructively, “No one wanted to be an artist but every man wanted to be paid for his labours” suggests McCoy Tyner’s work with John Coltrane, as Parker’s more straightforward, leaping reed line leavened with smeary overblowing meets up with modal, high-intensity chording from Schlippenbach. Fleet-fingered, and with reflective voicings, the pianist piles arpeggios onto arpeggios and follows cadenzas with cadenzas.

Making the sound even more contemporary, internal preparations distinguish the pianist’s playing from his jazz forefathers on “Perhaps this was his chance”. On this tune especially, the allusions to aluminum pie plates vibrating on the piano strings melds with Parker’s spectral reed whistling and distant squeaks. As the reedist extends his circular breathing on soprano sax, the combination of his timbres and the metallic crashes from piano innards almost bounce off the venue’s walls.

That’s one thing Lytton’s sensitive accompaniment doesn’t do. Alternating contrasting pressure and dynamics, his percussion positioning ranges from tiny, timed links from slapping single bells or hollow wood blocks to the focused rattles, smacks and pops of so-called modern jazz drumming.

Circular breathing that produces one lyrical tone then a harsher, obtuse overtone from Parker, plus churning cadenzas and accelerating chord connections from Schlippenbach aside, another reason AMERICA 2003 is so interesting is the even more novel techniques the veterans introduce.

“I had a friend among the angels” demonstrates this aptly as over a semi-martial beat from Lytton and Schlippenbach’s vibrating preparations, Parker’s slurs and flutter tonguing skirts past screech mode. Besides tongue slaps his elongated output soon become almost trumpet-like — muted with near plunger tones.

Jazz, boogie woogie, atonality, free music, whatever… In this configuration Parker, Schlippenbach and Lytton build an unanticipated novel sound from the sum of their techniques, backgrounds and future ideas.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. CD1: 1. Rejoicing in their hearts over the journey 2. Ask to be taken on as a trumpeter 3. This blowing of trumpets confused them 4. What memories of the past were recalled! 5. Perhaps this was his chance 6. To avoid monotony CD2: 1. No one wanted to be an artist but every man wanted to be paid for his labours 2. The breath of coldness 3. Are you strong enough for heavy work? 4. I had a friend among the angels 5. Down with all those who do not believe in us

Personnel: Evan Parker (soprano and tenor saxophones), Alexander Von Schlippenbach (piano); Paul Lytton (percussion)