Barry Guy / Evan Parker / Paul Lytton / Phil Wachsmann

April 22, 2000

Drawn Inward
ECM 1693 547 209-2

It’s actually quite appropriate to employ the over-used expression “quantum leap” when talking about the music of Evan Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. For there’s an actual transformation of energy here as the explorative British saxophonist and his group tailor live electronics and sound processing to their own ends.

Parker, who has spent the years since the mid-1960s, perfecting a unique improv language for his horns, has never been one to turn away from challenging musical situations. During that time he has not only performed with the cream of jazz/improv musicians, but also with others as varied as a Tuvan throat singer, an Italian brass band and even a shoe-gazing rocker. His concept seems to be to make it different with every outing. And that’s how he and his associates approach this memorable CD. But paradoxically, it works so well because of a combination of the familiar and the unusual.

Dealing with the familiar first, three-sixths of the accompanying musicians are longtime Parker associates. Bassist Guy and drummer Lytton plus Parker have been together on-and-off for about 25 years and make up the most influential improv group since Ornette Coleman’s “Golden Circle” trio. Violinist Wachsmann is another old friend from Guy’s London Jazz Composers Orchestra and other projects. Prati and Vecchi were around for Parker’s first electro-acoustic project, and he has worked as a duo with Casserley in the past.

The unusual arrives with the acceptance of electronics. Earlier live shows and this aggregations first ECM CD, TOWARD THE MARGINS, were fine music, but no one seemed to have worked out exactly how the “electro” could meld with the “acoustic”. Thus some tracks on the first CD sound like that of an acoustic group; others seemed all electronic.

DRAWN INWARD makes that “quantum leap”, integrating the two musical strands into one, probably because everyone but Parker and Guy is involved in sound manipulation. Plus new “hire” Casserley is a composer as well as an electronic manipulator, who brings that skill along with his technical prowess.

Lytton is an old hand at this type of music, having experimented with “electric drums” since the early 1970s and easily shows what he can do on “Travel in the Homeland”. Wachsmann’s features are the same with electronics allowing his tart violin runs to be both conventionally tonal and alive with otherworldy echoes.

But it’s Guy who makes the most memorable breakthrough. On “Reanscreena”, he highlights his considerable string dexterity playing naked acoustic bass surrounded by a thick buffer of waves from all four processors.

Another tour de force arrives on “Collect Calls”, where the entire ensemble creates one tune, than improvises against a recorded fragment of an earlier concert. To imagine it, think about one of those pictures of pictures of pictures of pictures, with the subject in each one getting smaller, but with all the details still intact.

Seemingly endless circular breath control and thick, scurrying micro notes that make up Parker’s solo style aren’t absent on DRAWN INWARD either. Any thinking saxophonist will probably be agape at what he can do with his horn on tracks like “Serpent In The Sky,” with or without the backing electronics.

To sum up: Rather than being drawn inward, this session should be drawn outward and into your collection.

-Ken Waxman

Track listing: 1. The Crooner (for Johnny Hartman) 2. Serpent in Sky 3. Travel in the Homeland 4. Spouting Bowl 5. Collect Calls (Milano – Kingston) [Bugged] 6. aka Lotan 7. Renascreena 8. At Home in the Universe (for Stuart Kauffman) 9. Writing On Ice 10. Phloy in the Frame 11. Drawninward

Personnel: Evan Parker (soprano and tenor saxophones, khène);Phil Wachsmann(violin, viola, live electronics, sound processing) Barry Guy (bass); Paul Lytton (drums, live electronics); Lawrence Casserley (live electronics, sound processing); Walter Prati (live electronics, sound processing); Marco Vecchi (live electronics, sound processing)