Evan Parker Transatlantic Art Ensemble

Boustrophedon
ECM 1873

A rare – and exceptional – foray into partially scored and conducted music for British saxophonist Evan Parker, this eight-part work for a 14-piece ensemble realizes its lofty goals because the composed sections are cleverly counterbalanced by the improvisations.

Boustrophedon – an ancient word describing a method of writing one line from left to right, the subsequent one from right to left and so on – reflects the CD’s parallel methodology as well. While Parker directs a seven-piece group of experienced European improvisers, American saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell does the same with seven, equally proficient, Americans. Much of the boustrophedon movement involves comparable exposure from matched instrumentalists such as the two bassists, two percussionists and two fiddlers. Meanwhile singular soloists like pianist Craig Taborn, cellist Marcio Mattos or flutist Neil Metcalfe cleanly negotiate the fissure between Eurocentric and American-inflected Free Music. Taborn, for instance, adds styled glissandi, tinkling portamento story-telling and formalistic note clusters to “Furrow 2”, but metronomic rhythmic chording to “Furrow 4”.

That same track exposes parallel counterpoint involving liquid contralto trilling from John Rangecroft’s clarinet and the sibilant rasping of Corey Wilkes’ trumpet pitched high enough to resemble a piccolo trumpet. Reposing on cymbal clashes from Tani Tabbal and Paul Lytton, this calming interlude contrasts with the previous “Furrow 3”, which reached a rushed crescendo of piano clinks, tongue-stopped vamps from the reeds and blunt drags and rebounds from the percussionists. A similar episode of intersected tones from members of the ensemble characterizes the suite’s climax. Its defining cacophony shatters into sound shards that include dual piano syncopation, opposite sticking percussion ratamacues and splayed cello interjections.

Again emphasizing parallelism, the concluding track is more of a postlude than a finale, as solos, encompassing among other techniques, double-tongued, pastoral flute, kinetic keyboard arpeggios and thematic alto saxophone variations, alternate with tutti orchestral passages.

Overall this CD is a unique but a memorably rousing addition to Parker’s discography.

— Ken Waxman

— MusicWorks Issue #104