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Boustrophedon by Evan Parker - Transatlantic Art Ensemble

Saxophone giants Roscoe Mitchell and Evan Parker have reaped numerous benefits by employing the multinational Transatlantic Art Ensemble. And as the press release iterates, this new solo endeavor by Parker serves as a companion to Mitchell’s much heralded 2007 ECM Records outing Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3. Here, Parker takes center stage with the thirteen-piece ensemble featuring his longtime band-mates, bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton. With Mitchell performing on tenor and alto saxophones, one of the more interesting facets of this endeavor pertains to the dual bass and drums/percussion augmentation. Moreover, we get to hear Parker’s compositional side, which unto itself offers a level of curiosity, when we consider his largely, improvisation-only discography.

The saxophonist intersperses modern classical structures with the improvisational component serving as the accelerating force. Another compelling attribute of this project relates to the manner and methodology of Parker’s composing process, which to these ears, sound as though the support structure encircles a given soloist. Think of an imperfect circle embodying a histogram, awash with dips and spikes.

The avant-garde elements ebb and flow within the totality of these works. In certain regions, we hear dreamy flutes and piano etudes morphing into staggered strings-based currents, sometimes shaded with ominous attributes. With staccato lines, multihued cymbals and bells, the hornists often dart around the perimeter of any given statement or mini-motif. On "Furrow 4," Corey Wilkes’ raspy trumpet phrasings launch a free-jazz vibe amid timely clashes with the ensemble. In effect, all the instrumentalists enjoy their day in the sun. And during "Furrow 5," the strings section plucks and pushes the proceedings into a burgeoning rhythmic cadenza while subsequently fading into a quiet groan. Then Parker unleashes his iconic circular phrasing passages via soprano sax as the ensemble contrasts the proceedings with a spherical edge. Therefore, vivid imagery is in abundance as the musicians also delve into fractured swing vamps and bluesy movements while reengaging the more temperate aspects towards the finale of the program.

To summarize, Parker glowingly succeeds by interweaving a myriad of applied concepts and loose-groove techniques. It’s an open-air type musical event where the artists use of depth, and space offer an additional dimension to the shifting tides and prearranged activities. No doubt, this is a fascinating listen due to Parker’s translucent mergence of bountiful stylizations that on paper, might seem overly austere or didactic in nature. Such is not the case, since the music - while heady and demanding - equates to a wondrously entertaining treat for one’s aural senses. (Vigorously recommended.... )

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Evan Parker - Transatlantic Art Ensemble
  • CD Title: Boustrophedon
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2008
  • Record Label: ECM Records
  • Tracks: Overture, Furrow 1, Furrow 2, Furrow 3, Furrow 4, Furrow 5, Furrow 6, Finale
  • Musicians: Evan Parker (soprano saxophone), Roscoe Mitchell (alto and soprano saxophone), Anders Svanoe (alto saxophone), John Rangecroft (clarinet), Neil Metcalfe (flute), Corey Wilkes (trumpet, flugelhorn), Nils Bultmann (viola), Philipp Wachsmann (violin), Marcio Mattos (cello), Craig Taborn (piano), Jaribu Shahid (double-bass), Barry Guy (double-bass), Tani Tabbal (drums, percussion), Paul Lytton (drums, percussion)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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