Evan Parker, Peter Evans, Matthew Wright, Toma Gouband
(‘Might I Suggest’ Festival, fourth night of five. Vortex Jazz Club. February 1st 2014. Review by James Safiruddin)
Two of the world’s finest free-improvisers, saxophonist Evan Parker and trumpeter Peter Evans joined forces with live sampling/electronic artist Matthew Wright and French percussionist Toma Gouband to create a performance that joyfully and satisfyingly continued Evan’s ‘Might I suggest’ Festival into the fourth of its five nights.
This festival has been running now for 4 years at the Vortex. The sense of a special occasion was increased by the presence in the audience of a luminary, a legend, and ‘old mate’ of Parker’s: Dave Holland.
The concert had been thoughtfully planned: the first half consisted of three solo performances and the second, one long quartet improvisation. This format familairized the audience with each of the musicians, and also gave a sense of both a contrast and a progression between the two halves of the gig.
For the first performance of the evening, Gouband had placed a number of jagged and unwieldy rocks on a variety of drums and cymbals. Hitting these rocks with smaller sharp stones, gently, precisely and quietly, resulted in a hypnotic, enticing, minimalist piece developing into a tasteful, post-techno denouement.
Parker and Wright followed with a short duo piece, showing the former as the master-virtuoso he really is on soprano sax. Parker developed long mellifluous shapes of ostinati, varying without respite as his famed and impeccable circular-breathing technique.The laptop-based accompaniment mainly stayed in a secondary role and maintained a consistent texture of glitchy digital drones, adjusting to Parker’s shapes. Although I found it perhaps a little one-sided, it was nonetheless a pleasure to see Parker play so virtuosically in this stripped-down idiom.
The third piece by Peter Evans was a consummate tour-de-force of innovation and avant-garde exploration leaving any listener in awe of his instrumental prowess. He achieved sounds and effects that exhorted gasps of delight and surprise from all, seamlessly developing a great number of complex and intricate musical ideas.
Each of these pieces whetted the audience’s appetite for the group improvisation. There was a looming sense of anticipation in the full-to-capacity room as Parker, beer in hand, announced from the bar that the second set would follow shortly.
The quartet of improvisers played one long piece, roughly 45 minutes in length, that fluidly and organically shifted across a variety of textures and soundscapes. The first texture, a delicately hand-manipulated piccolo trumpet and frantic soprano sax counterpoint, over a dense layer of obfuscated rock-on-drum percussion, whilst exciting at first began to risk having gone on too long. Relief of a kind returned when Evans instigated a change, put his piccolo down and returned to the Bb trumpet. The shifts and changes were clear and satisfying, even reducing the loud and dense ensemble sound down to delicate the percussion, which was subtly and playfully manipulated and mimicked by Wright on electronics.
Evan Parker and Peter Evans were the dominant voices and their sensational and mystifying sounds intertwined in a culmination of frantic clusters and runs. The audience clearly wanted more, and appeared unsure whether it was appropriate to ask for it. I certainly would have enjoyed another piece, or even slightly longer solos in the first half. This was a seriously memorable gig from world-class improvisers… as Dave Holland so aptly tweeted “a creative and unique performance”.