Label: Matchless Recordings – MRCD33
Format: 2 × CD, Album; Country: UK - Released: 1997
Style: Free Improvisation
Recorded at Gateway Studios, Kingston, England on February 23rd (CD 'A', and 'B' 1) and April 13th (CD 'B' 2, 3, 4, 5) 1997.
Engineer – Steve Lowe (2)
Liner Notes – Christian Wolff
Painting [Front Cover Painting] – Brenda Mayo
Evan Parker saxophones & Eddie Prévost percussion
Double album, double solos of two distinctive musicians, becoming duets in a relatively rare space between solo playing and ensemble. Reed and percussion start at different places, the one working through breath, the other pulse of materials being struck, one typically characterised by line, the other by attack, producing in the first pitch configurations, in the second beat patterns (Prévost doesn ’ t use the specifically pitched mallet instruments). Each player comes with a distinctive sonic identity, but they ’ re frequently crossing. The main intersection is sonority. The saxophone can splutter, click and gesture, notably in the extreme registers and the rapid shifts between them, with just sound. Prévost makes long, sustained attackless sounds by bowing his cymbals and gong, and his invented string drum tosses up melodic fragments. Percussion drives and saxophone sings, but Parker can drive just as hard and Prévost make a singing sound. Sometimes you can ’ t tell which of the two ’ s sounds you ’ re hearing. There ’ s a lot of music here, like a long book, on eight tracks, each with with particular sound and overall shape, but all parts of a large, continuous process, coherent.
The ingredients of the coherence are various and in-process. The impulse of the playing is free, improvised, discovering, but the playing is always in sharp focus, clearly etched, completely attentive; nothing ’ s casual, there ’ s no drift. The production of single sounds, extended continuities, streams of sound is exact - at high speeds, at slow and searching, when the sound is scattered and spaces open up, when it ’ s meditative or rhapsodic, or wherever in between it may be. Always the playing fuses this focused discipline (exercised, incidentally, on remarkable virtuosity) with impulse which rides the controls, and foci, of breath (with Parker often circular, uninterruptedly sustained) and pulse, the processes of producing the sound. With sound production at source and center, melodic, harmonic and rhythmic structures are resultants. This may seem to give the music a rather abstract, distanced feeling. But what could be more immediate than this closeness to the sounding process itself? The making of the sounds is a way of finding, letting loose melodic tracings (often close to pentatonic and overtone series- related pitches), cohering and dissolving rhythmic patterns, and the larger structural shapes of whole pieces (cuts). The latter seem to me particularly transparent, and so, affecting, in a rhythm of transformation, back and forth and forward, between slower and faster, scattered and driving and flowing, variegated and reduced, absences and presences - no drums, only drums, persistence in a register of the sax, in a mode (color) of playing; timbral shifts making structural shapes. The harmony is in the interplay and balancing of the players ’ sonorities, and occasionally, surprisingly, pitch-related, the pitch of a drum tuned to by the sax (say, towards the end of track 4 of CD 2). The sax too has its multiphonic chords (grounded in the instrument ’ s physical, acoustic construction) or, when rapidly shifting between registers, implies, as in Bach ’ s writing for solo instruments, two or more vertically related sound layers. And Prévost ’ s bowing on metal produces rich harmonic sonorities.
Though the music of these duets might appear abstract, avoiding obvious epiphanies, the quality of the sound-making persists at an unfalteringly high level of attention, where at almost any moment there maybe surprise and discovery. As listener you too, then, have to be a discoverer. For all the edge and drive the music ’ s not aggressive, not at your throat. It ’ s more matter-of-fact (as John Cage said of Satie ’ s music, that it was simply in-your-face), It ’ s tempting to say that these performances are masterful too, the music of two masters - meaning nothing pretentious, just technically, in the sense of accumulated and sustained craft and invention, experience and renewal.
Christian Wolff - C August 1997
In Britain, the two earliest groups of committed free improvisors were the musicians based in AMM and those based around the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. There was surprisingly very little interchange between these two groups. The reason for this appears to be that they had two distinct approaches to improvisation. AMM seemed to be exploring a more textural and spatial group approach as opposed to SME's more conversational and cellular method. Of course, the disctinctions were not so cut and dry but they clearly approached the issue from two different directions. Drummer/percussionist Eddie Prévost has been one of the main constants of AMM and over the course of the past 3D-plus years has both refined his percussive approach and (through side projects) demonstrated the scope of his abilities. Prévost's side quartet is a solid (and underrated) jazz group and an earlier Matchless recording, 'Premonitions' by the Free Jazz Quartet (which included trombonist Paul Rutherford, an Incus/SME stalwart) showed his familiarity with the methods of the 'opposing' camp. Saxophonist Evan Parker has made similar investigations. His duet album with electronic musician Walter Prati didn't sound too far away from AMM's sonic landscapes.
One would think the two would have moved even further away from each other stylistically over the years. But, ultimately, free improvisation in a group situation is about finding common ground and these two individualists do just that on this series of remarkable duets recorded in a in February and April last year. This is not a case of two diametrically opposed styles coming together. Rather, each has enough improvising technique and intelligence to work with the other, drawing on the other's approach and applying his own technique to it. Over the years, Parker's sax style (especially when playing solo) seems to have become denser and he seems to have pared space in his music down to a minimum. Yet, here he seems to be reaching back to his earlier style of improvisational architecture and he allows a lot more breathing space (so to speak) into his music. This is most evident on 'That More Might Have Been Done, Or Sooner'. (By the way, all titles are taken from Francis Bacon, hence the older English spelling.) By the same token, on 'Nil Novum', a skittering duet with Parker on soprano, Prévost's tuned drums gives the impression that Parker is dialoguing with another horn. Then there's the astonishing passages of textural exploration with Prévost's bowed cymbals and deeply tuned cavernous drums matched by Parker's clicks, pops and spectral harmonics. And then there's the final duet 'Chastise Me, But listen' which seems the closest to American 'free jazz' that these players have come. It's almost as if they're paying homage to the John Coltrane/ Rashied AIi duets on 'Interstellar Space.' Although the two have recorded together before in group situations, most notably on 'Supersession' in the mid-'80s, 'Most Materiall' seems like a project that's been fermenting for over thirty years. I guess it's true, good things are worth the wait.
— By Robert lannapollo
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