Evan Parker/Zlatko Kaučič

Round About One o’clock
NotTwo MW 863-2

Grutronic & Evan Parker

Together in Zero Space

psi 11.09

British saxophonist Evan Parker’s musical plasticity is such that it’s often difficult to imagine in what context he’ll next appear. A consummately sympathetic improviser as well as a bandleader, Parker’s soloing can be equally intrepid in electronic as acoustic settings, as these CDs demonstrate.

Playing partner on Round About One o’clock is percussionist Zlatko Kaučič, arguably Slovenia’s most accomplished and well-travelled improviser, having spent years outside the country playing with senior stylists such as saxophonist Steve Lacy and Peter Brötzmann. This live set from the 50th Ljubljana Jazz Festival, find the two celebrating the memory of pioneering British freebop saxophonist Mike Osborne (1941-2007), spelling out his nickname in the six selections’ titles.

An entirely different jolt of electrical energy, Together in Zero Space was recorded in the Slovakian capital Bratislava exactly five months later as part of the 10th Next Festival of Advanced Music. Here Parker, only playing soprano, is a special guest of the British Grutronic ensemble, most of whose members use processing and transduction to improvise, and do so operating such electronic implements as the wigi, buchla lightning blippoo box and drosscillator. Parker, who was experimenting with electronics 30 years ago and leads his own Electrocacoustic Ensemble is unfazed.

He must be, because outside of the occasional plinks and jabs or processed glissandi from the piano of Stephen Grew, who elsewhere improvises acoustically with folks like reedist Mick Beck, it’s Parker’s idiosyncratic overblowing, trilling vibrations and circular breathing that bring the acoustic to the two electro-acoustic improvisations here. Never cowed, Parker oftentimes mixes lip burbles, growly split tones and inhaled breaths among the voltage interface. There’s even a point during “Filigree and Circuitry” that gravelly kinetic sound loops are pushed aside for some straightforward, linear timbres from the saxophonist, seconded by staccato keyboard cascades.

On the other hand, isolating which textures emanates from which implement wielded by Richard Scott, David Ross or Nick Grew is next to impossible. Considering that each has experienced with soundscapes, installations, and the production of asymmetrical and aleatoric forms, the rubbery pumps and wave-form drones that modulate and splinter the tracks are anonymous enough yet often rely on Parker’s flutter tonguing to create a satisfactory shape. With pit bull-like yelps, jew’s harp-like resonations, polyphonic shuffles and distorted circuitry clashing throughout “Mesomerism in Rhythm”, it’s Grew and Parker produce more recognizable improv tropes among the processed sound loops. Ironically, at one point Grew’s controlled rumbles and tremolo patterning wouldn’t sound out of place on an acoustic club gig. As for Parker, not only are there instances of continuous tongue fluttering, but when he distorts his lines with staccato reed bites and continuous lip pressure, his output references unfettered Free Jazz more than electronic-pushed drones.

Any ancillary bounces, crackles, reverberations, raps, clicks and pings that are heard on the other CD are strictly the province of percussionist Kaučič. Responding by playing both his horns – only soprano saxophone is used on Together in Zero Space – Parker come up with a more upfront reed strategy. For instance the third track “Link to... Z”, features the percussionist shouting as he rattles Tibetan-styled bell trees, whaps aluminum vibraharp bars and eventually alternates percussion clatter with what sounds like the tearing of foolscap. In response, Parker’s narrowed split tones become more mercurial with reed biting plus key percussion eventually create Trane-like inflections with high-pitched slurs.

Clarion cries from the top range of Parker’s horn(s) and discursive tongue flutters characterize some of the other duets, with Kaučič methodically rubbing, shaking and vibrating unique timbres with intense concentration, frequently prompting the saxophonist to reply with snorting air ejaculations. Paradoxically, since his soloing is both more abstract and more chromatic than it is with Grutronic, the saxophonist’s hocketing slurps and staccato reed vibrations doesn’t prevent broken-octave parallel improvising to cement the duets.

Eventually with the final “Dear Mike”, the parallel improving moves into a new phase of thicker strongly constricted lines. Reaching a climax of triple-tongued smears which expose multiphonic partials as well as the initial narrative, Parker’s glissandi is broken into individual honks as Kaučič’s rattles and bumps dampen as they reach a finale.

Two more high class example of Parker’s pliable art, the choice between the CDs depends on preference for an electro-acoustic or a rhythmically acoustic exhibition.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Round: 1. Link to... O 2. Link to... Z 3. Link to... Z 4. Link to... I 5. Link to... E 6. Dear Mike!

Personnel: Round: Evan Parker (soprano and tenor saxophone) and Zlatko Kaučič (ground drums)

Track Listing: Together: 1. Filigree and Circuitry 2. Mesomerism in Rhythm

Personnel: Together: Evan Parker (soprano saxophone); Stephen Grew (keyboard and processing); Richard Scott (wigi, buchla lightning mad blippoo box); Nick Grew (transduction) and David Ross (drosscillator)