Review: Evan Parker/ Django Bates

Django Bates Beloved Bird Trio and Evan Parker
(Vortex, January 27th,2011, review and drawing by Geoff Winston.)

“There’s been a misunderstanding” said Django Bates – we thought we were guests of Evan, and he thought he was a guest of us … and we’re still trying to work it out!” Bates explained the evening’s conundrum to the audience as his ‘Beloved Bird’ TrioPetter Endh (bass) and Peter Bruun (drums) completed the first of the evening’s fizzingly empowered improvisations with Evan Parker.

The opening number had offered a series of false ‘natural endings’ followed by manically energetic resumptions, then moving through a few bars of gospel call and response, and rounding off delicately. Taken as a whole, the first set was a performance of swerving pace and sheer concentration, but also of shades and nuances. The four musicians would raise the stakes aggressively, and then let sounds fleetingly and gently float. It was mesmerizing.

The second set kicked off with ‘Plan B’, which Django imagined is what the punters (all very happy and demonstratively enthusiastic throughout) may have been expecting – the Trio performing their interpretations of Charlie Parker, a project which was a happy by-product of a teaching assignment at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory in Copenhagen coinciding with a Parker celebration in the same city.

For ‘Scrapple from the Apple’, ‘Hothouse’ and – as Django put it, “the hard one” – ‘Moose the Mooch’, which ended on a crazy latin carnival tone – a sort of Monty Alexander on speed, Evan Parker sat to the side and took it all in, reflecting Django’s stated aim of ‘not putting a … saxophonist in the position of having either not sound like Charlie Parker, or to try to sound like him!”* They just flipped in to this quite different jazz vocabulary, offering pure and authentic bebop mainstream phrasing as part of their revealing deconstructions.

Evan then rejoined the Trio for a final extended extemporization – which included Django on tenor horn, splitting the quartet into brass – and rhythm sections, and a meditative encore. A wonderful range of body language reflected their individual approaches. Django’s arms traced Escher-like perpetual motorway flyover patterns as he reached back and forth, over and under across the keyboard. Bruun was ever fluid, in constant motion as he subverted the drummer’s role, lifting the cymbal off its stand and placing it on the tom, or holding the stick plumb-vertical on the tom, while maintaining a calm demeanour. Endh, by contrast, was inwardly focused, his face taut in his solo as he compulsively exorcised an obsessive rhythmic pattern, with deft accents from Bruun. Parker, for his considerably expressive light and shade, and fluent bluff and bluster, was very much a physically self-contained and undemonstrative figure, yet he reached out to and led the trio into a rich framework, in similar fashion to the way Django set markers for the Bad Plus in his collaboration with them last November.

This was an evening when mutual respect led to fine moments of intangible, unspoken, mystic communication.

(*) From Django Bates’ interview with Ethan Iverson for BBC Jazzon3 reproduced HERE

Categories: miscellaneous

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