Konvoj Ensemble

Mira
Konvoj Records KOR 008

Parker & RGG

Live@Alchemia

Fundacja Słuchaj FSR 01

At this point, a half-century into his professional career, there’s very little British saxophonist Evan Parker hasn’t done musically. Yet like the golden-ager who decides to learn to fly a plane, Parker, 72, is open to new challenges and situations. The saxophonist, who has been a constant presence in Continental bands since his twenties lends his expertise and flair to two Northern European ensembles. .

Recorded in Krakow, Live@Alchemia is somewhat more straightforward, since Parker is featured as guest soloist on an extended improvisation with the established Polish RGG trio of pianist Łukasz Ojdana, bassist Maciej Garbowski and drummer Krzysztof Gradziuk. Mira is another matter, since it’s based on graphic and interactive scores composed and constructed by Swedish alto and baritone saxophonist Ola Paulson and Dane Jakob Riis’ expertise with computer programming and real time processing. Broadcast by Swedish radio from Malmö, besides Parker, Paulson and Riis, the seven movements also highlight contributions from Danish saxophonist Lotte Anker; Lithuanian clarinet Liudas Mockūnas; and Swedes Sten Sandell on piano and drummer Anders Uddeskog.

Together since 2001, although Ojdana replaced the group’s original pianist in 2013, RGG records extensively as a trio, and served as trumpeter Tomasz Stanko’s rhythm section. Here the members initially appear more wedded to the mainstream than Parker. That means, that like a century home fitted out with contemporary adornments, it takes time to adjust sensibilities. The saxophonist’s distinctive slurring tone is audible from the first, but for a while the uneasy fit is more like Sonny Rollins playing with the 1958 Ahmad Jamal trio. Luckily mid-way through “Live@Alchemia Part One”, a precisely torqued solo from Garbowski that brings out the instrument’s guitar-like facility, encourages Ojdana to dig into the piano’s lowest levels, Gradziuk to redouble his percussiveness. From that point, Parker’s stuttering vibrations are more at home.

The interaction is more simpatico, with the improvisational landscape changing like a bullet train trip, highlighting fleeting images and moving on to the next aural tableau. Along with the saxophonist’s pointed circular breathing, Ojdana focuses the picture with energetic piano string strums and on occasion sweeping keyboard accents. Even with these dynamic inferences, his model appears careful Bill Evans-oriented than Cecil Taylor’s experiments. By “Live@Alchemia - Part Three” and the concluding track, the four are on equal footing. The pianist’s gnomic note examination links up intensely with mercurial cymbal slaps while double bass runs which suggest foreboding amplify the story-telling properties of Parker’s continuous tongue slurs and slaps. Forecasting the piece’s eventual climax, Ojdana crab-like key motions and Garbowski’s sul ponticello string pressure lapse into silences during the last sequences, leaving shaded drum beats alone match Parker’s reed vocalizing. Building to a crescendo of interlocking tones, the improvisatio0n fades leaving a sense of attained mutual goals.

Encompassing three other woodwind players as well as intermittent programming and live processing, Parker’s individuality isn’t compromised on the other CD. Yet the application of extended reeds techniques which he helped pioneer decades ago is now expressed as a matter of course by the other players here. As all the reedists shade their output with honks, snorts, continuous breathing air-expelling and the hint of brassy upwards-moving timbres, at points the resulting scene-setting makes it seem as if a quartet of Parker clones is arrayed against the pianist’s circular chording and underlined wave-form continuum.

Staccato and mercurial in his exposition Parker is most notable on “6th Movement - A Part of Miranda” dialoguing first with Mockūnas’ shrilling and then with Anker’s more measured tones. But despite harder drum beats and irregular siren-like shrieks from the horns much of the focus is on Sandell’s cross-handed pacing. That’s because the pianist is showcased on the CD’s true centerpiece, the expansive and multi-sequenced “3rd, 4th & 5th Movement - In the Belly of The Whale - 3 Days and 3 Nights”. Someone who developed a unique method of keyboard timbral stretching, as kinetic, but more thematic than Cecil Taylor, Sandell may gallop over the keys with racehorse efficiency and amplify soundboard echoes as much as any New music follower. But his take is more amiable and less pressurized and includes a running bass line processed with one hand as the other key clips and buzzes among tones. Given his bravura more prominence is Riis’ real-time processing which amplifies the massed shrilling and squeaking from the horn quartet or segments it with reflective buzzes. Eventually a disquieting sequence is set up that threatens to cement each player’s sound into an oleaginous mass. This squiring block is only punctured by melding Parker’s eviscerated shrills and Sandell’s whistles and single note punctuation, The coherent theme liberated by that action picks up added freedom on the next track and finally coalesces into an all-embracing climax on “7th Movement - Postlude/Hauers Treasure” ending in a fanfare of juddering piano action with a succession of shaded reed textures.

Leader, partner, band member, guest or contributor: these sessions are more evidence that in his maturity Parker is able to move a project to a higher sonic plane by adding his accomplished musical intuition.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Live: 1. Live@Alchemia Part One 2. Live@Alchemia Part Two 3. Live@Alchemia - Part Three 4. Live@Alchemia - Part Four

Personnel: Live: Evan Parker (tenor saxophone); Łukasz Ojdana (piano); Maciej Garbowski (bass) and Krzysztof Gradziuk (drums)

Track Listing: Mira: 1. 1st Movement - Prelude /Hommage To O Ceti 2. 2nd Movement - Speak Out, Oh Ye Red Giant 3. 3rd, 4th & 5th Movement - In the Belly of The Whale - 3 Days And 3 Nights 4. 6th Movement - A Part of Miranda 5. 7th Movement - Postlude/Hauers Treasure

Personnel: Mira: Lotte Anker ( alto and soprano saxophones); Evan Parker (tenor saxophone); Ola Paulson (alto and baritone saxophones); Liudas Mockunas (clarinet and bass clarinet); Sten Sandell (piano and voice); Anders Uddeskog (drums and percussion) and Jakob Riis (computer and real time processing)