June 2008

Evan Parker Trio
part of Suoni per il Toronto
June 27, 2008 The Music Gallery Toronto
Blowing the roof off
Report and photo
by Tom Sekowski

If my memory serves me right, last time we saw Evan Parker in Toronto was twelve years ago, when he performed with Sainkho Namchylak at the old Music Gallery venue. It was there the duo gave a stunning performance for what later became the Mars Song CD (released by Victo). Since then, no organization had the audacity to bring one of the reigning saxophone gods back to town. I don’t know if this is due to lack of finances or perhaps caused by conflict in schedules. What I do know is that on Friday, this Toronto audience was electrified and energized by an individual whose trio has become one of the mainstays in the world of adventurous jazz.

With nearly twenty albums to their credit, and a history that spans more than twenty-five years (though Parker’s history with Lytton goes back nearly four decades already), Parker’s trio has always operated on a distinctly otherworld level. What was more in evidence than anything else during Friday’s performance was how flawlessly the trio communicates. The first thing that one notices during Evan Parker’s performance is how closely each of the players listens to one another. What this meant is there were no false plays, no faux pas and certainly no indiscreet shouting going on. If anything, the three players used their ears as much as they used their hands and mouth to make the music at hand.

It would be quite unfair to single out any member of the trio and say that this person was the defining one in the group. Bassist Barry Guy and percussionist Paul Lytton played as hard as the leader. Evan Parker’s howling sax blows constantly reached new zenith points. These were meticulously intersected by Guy’s swiftly moving bass lines and Lytton’s inventive and propelling percussive machinations. Oddly enough, hints of melodies crept into a couple of the longer improvised pieces. It’s crucial to point this out — this is not a trio that will play anything that sounds alike twice. On the contrary, by default, they are the definition of free improvisation. Taken as a whole or as three separate parts of the same body, they have defined and re-defined improvisation time and time again.
Barry Guy &
Evan Parker

Following an intermission, Barry Guy came back to start off the second half of the show with a fiery bass solo. In the span of ten minutes, his fingers ran the strings as if involved in some sort of mad race. The best moment came when he placed his bow between the strings and kept playing it as if it were some sort of a see saw. When the band returned, they even managed to play a mid-tempo piece, which was more subdued than anything I’ve ever heard them attempt. Other than this one piece, the trio was nothing but a raging volcano. While Parker blew a flurry of screeching notes into the sax, Guy and Lytton were solid as a rock, right up in front, alongside the leader. Furious, rapid and flawless communication has rarely sounded this good.

Due to excessive humidity, it may have been difficult to concentrate on the proceedings at hand at all times. I caught more than a few people constantly wiping sweat from their foreheads or trying to cool themselves off in the confines of the church’s non-air conditioned sanctuary. Still, this was one very rambunctious night, filled with killer playing and a well-rounded improvisational tour de force.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Tom Sekowski
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