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Evan Shaw Parker (born 5 April 1944 in Bristol) is a Britishmarker free-improvising saxophone player from the European free jazz scene.

Recording and performing prolifically with many collaborators, Parker was a pivotal figure in the development of European free jazz and free improvisation, and has pioneered or substantially expanded an array of extended techniques. Critic Ron Wynn describes Parker as "[a]mong Europe's most innovative and intriguing saxophonists ... his solo sax work isn't for the squeamish" ( Wynn, [n.d.]).

Early influences

His original inspiration was Paul Desmond, and in recent years the influence of cool jazz saxophone players has again become apparent in his music — there are tributes to Warne Marsh and Lee Konitz on Time Will Tell (ECM, 1993) and Chicago Solo (Okkadisk, 1997).

Later work

Parker is better known, however, for his later work, which rapidly assimilated the American avantgarde — John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Albert Ayler and others — and forged his own, instantly identifiable style. His music of the 1960s and 1970s is harsh, raw and unsettling, involving fluttering, swirling lines that have shape rather than tangible melodic content; sometimes he makes use of pure sound in a manner that recalls Steve Lacy's more radical 1970s recordings or the work of some AACM members. He began to develop methods of rapidly layering harmonics and false notes to create dense contrapuntal weaves; these involved experiments with plastic reeds, circular breathing and rapid tonguing which initially were so intense that he would find blood dripping onto the floor from the saxophone. He also became a member of the important big band, The Brotherhood of Breath.

Later recordings are equally impressive but rather less thorny, and more consistent in style, as Parker's style became less open to change; but an Evan Parker recording is still always something to contend with, and some of his recent discs, such as America 2003, are as gripping and satisfying as any of his earlier recordings.

Parker has also increasingly become interested in electronics, usually through inviting collaborators such as Phil Wachsmann, Walter Prati, Joel Ryan or Lawrence Casserley to electronically process his playing in real time, creating a musical feedback loop or constantly shifting soundscape.

Recordings

He has recorded countless albums solo or as a group leader, and has recorded or performed with Peter Brötzmann (including Brötzmann's epochal Machine Gun in 1968), John Stevens, Derek Bailey, Keith Rowe, Joe McPhee, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Two key associations have been pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach's trio with Parker and drummer Paul Lovens (documented on recordings such as Pakistani Pomade and Elf Bagatellen) and a trio with bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton. On Parker's 50th birthday, these two bands played a set apiece at a London concert; the results were issued by Leo Records as 50th Birthday Concert.

Parker is one of the few saxophone players for whom unaccompanied solo performance is a major part of his work ( Jurek [n.d.]).

Parker, Bailey and the drummer Tony Oxley founded the Incus record label in 1970, which was one of the most important labels to document improvised music. (The label continued under Bailey's sole control, after a falling-out between the two men in the early 1980s.) Nowadays Parker curates the Psi record label, which is issued through Martin Davidson's Emanem records. He also performs monthly at London's Vortex Jazz Clubmarker.

Though Parker's central focus is free improvisation, he has also occasionally appeared in more conventional jazz contexts, such as Charlie Watts's big band and Kenny Wheeler's ensembles, and participated in Gavin Bryars's recording After the Requiem, performing the composition "Alaric I or II" as part of a saxophone quartet.

Parker has recently contributed to David Sylvian's latest release Manafon.

Pop music

Evan Parker, 2005
He also has appeared in pop-music contexts: on Scott Walker's Climate of Hunter, and on dubesque albums with Jah Wobble, the adventurous drum n bass duo Spring Heel Jack and rock group Spiritualized. He appeared on the b-side to Vic Reeves and The Wonderstuff's UK 1991 number one hit "Dizzy", performing saxophone on "Oh, Mr Songwriter" (based around "Vic Reeves Big Night Out" TV show end theme song). At one point during a sax solo, Vic can be heard shouting "Pack it in, Parker!".

Parker has also made notable appearances on record with Robert Wyatt.

See also



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