Evan Parker – Solo concert to mark Galerie Max Hetzier’s exhibition of Thomas Struth’s CERN-inspired photographs
(St James’s Church, Piccadilly, 1 June 2023. Review by Oliver Weindling. Drawings by Geoff Winston)
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Evan Parker performed solo on soprano saxophone at the invitation of German photographer Thomas Struth to coincide with the launch of his exhibition(*). Parker is one of the few saxophonists who has innovated what can come from this relatively small instrument since John Coltrane, something he is continuing to do today, with resolute intensity even with his eightieth birthday less than a year way.
Solo sets on more substantial instruments – like piano or guitar, where the performer has access to a huge range of notes and harmonies – can be expected to bring all kinds of sonic richness. But in the hands of Parker, an apparently straightforward melodic instrument is used to create something really awesome and thought-provoking, with overtones and other extended techniques.
Perhaps due to the forced opportunity for reflection and experimentation over the period of lockdown, the music he is creating now is as imaginative as ever was. But he has taken what he does further. The music ebbs and flows. Multilayered sections lead to a single note as a sort of pivot for the next stage of the journey. And the chance to perform in a church such as St James’s Piccadilly gave an additional warmth and reverb to the sound.
The parallels with Struth’s photography are striking. Both look deeply into their topics of modernity and how humanity interacts with the past. In Parker’s case, irrespective of the sheets of sound created, there always remain elements of the music’s history for him to reflect on and to innovates with.