Monday, April 05, 2010


Jazz saxophonist Evan Parker was born on April 5, 1944, in Bristol, England and may be the most formidable saxophonist since John Coltrane. He plays Trane's instruments, tenor and soprano, and lists Coltrane as one of his principal influences (he grew up in England, son of a BOAC pilot-enabling him to make frequent trips to New York as a teenager to hear Trane, Dolphy, and other heroes).

On some of his tenor excursions (particularly here on his work with the John Wolf Brennan HeXtet) his tone sounds a great deal like Coltrane's, and his phrasing recalls some of the last words from the master: the twilight pyrotechnics of Interstellar Space and Expression.

No one, however, would ever hear Evan Parker playing either tenor or soprano and mistake the player for John Coltrane. Or anyone else! Evan Parker is that rare bird of contemporary playing: a thoroughly individual voice. He has influenced a growing crowd of younger saxophonists, but his playing in indefatigably free settings has unfortunately limited his fame and influence. Parker is emphatically not an "entertainer," but a true artist who has developed an entirely new way to play the saxophone.

Parker has developed the possibilities of unpremeditated music more deeply than almost anyone, creating a personal vocabulary that is simultaneously instantly recognizable and adaptable to the most varied of situations. To the untrained ear his playing will take some getting used to. He adapts marvelously to the style of whomever he's playing with, but he makes no easy concessions to the expectations of a listener weaned on the likes of hard bop. On tenor he creates sharp melodic shards with an astonishing emotional range.

On soprano he employs circular breathing to create literally breathtaking swirls of sound that recall the techniques of minimalism in their hypnotic, minute variations, while astonishing the listener with their technical facility.

In the Sixties Parker began with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble that included guitarist Derek Bailey, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, bassist Dave Holland, the legendary drummer John Stevens; all went on to be recognized as being among the foremost exponents of their instruments. Wheeler included him in relatively conventional settings on two albums for ECM, Around 6 and Music for Large and Small Ensembles.

Parker has recorded extensively. Some of his most noted recordings have been made with two trios: Parker/Guy/Lytton with bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton, and the Schlippenbach Trio with pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and drummer Paul Lovens. He has also recorded with Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Anthony Braxton, Steve Lacy, Marilyn Crispell, Ned Rothenberg . . . the list is a virtual "Who's Who" of the most celebrated figures of the improvised music scene.

Evan Parker is in his mid-fifties now and shows no signs of slowing down. Perhaps before he's through he'll be recognized by a larger segment of serious music listeners as the all-time master that he is.

Press Quote

"The techniques he's developed have been inspirational summits for many saxophonists." --

Richard Cook
Evan Parker Trio
Reference - AAJ

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