Evan Parker/Wes Neal/Joe Sorbara

At Somewhere There
Barnyard Records BR0321

Without a hint of condescension, veteran British tenor saxophonist Evan Parker allies his skills with the talents of Torontonians bassist Wes Neal and drummer Joe Sorbara in this first-class essay in free improvisation. During the single track, recorded live at local performance space Somewhere There, rhythms, pitches and tones are mixed, matched, mulched and multiplied with a timbral blend that makes it seems as if the trio members have collaborated for years.

Balancing methodical plucks and brawny strums with a hint of sul tasto extensions, Neal marshals his strings to create an unremitting chromatic pulse. For his part, Sorbara pops, plucks, strikes and bounces rhythms on the sides and tops of his drums to tint and roughen the narrative. Delicate bell pings, rattling chains and, more frequently, the harsh application of a drum stick along a cymbal, mark transitions.

Meanwhile Parker, who has been involved in similar ad-hoc improvising since the mid-1960s, varies his output from intense flutter tonguing to glottal punctuation; and from flattement smears to cadenzas of bird-like twittering. Yet even as his inventive free-flowing timbres inflate, constrict or propel the performance in unexpected directions, he never loses its linear thread. A master of cooperation not dominance, even his intervals of nearly superhuman circular breathing are not challenges but an invitation to further group counterpoint. By the finale his occasional pan-tonal bent notes and nephritic explosions have become merely one element in this group sonic picture, separate but equal to the bassist’s double stopping or the drummer’s ruffs and rolls.

—Ken Waxman

— For Whole Note Vol. 16 #9