Monday, August 14, 2006

Meanwhile back in Europe... Derek Bailey/Dave Holland... Evan Parker...























A couple of tracks from the UK improvisation brigade – Evan Parker with his Electro-Acoustic Ensemble and Derek Bailey playing with Dave Holland. Both these sessions represent the wide reach and interest of the main constituents – who have played in a bewildering array of ensembles and adhoc groupings down the years (while in Parker's case keeping keeping up old alliances such as his ongoing work with the Alexander Von Schlippenbach Trio ). Bailey of course sadly died at Christmas. Parker is still going strong, quietly refining and honing his steely brilliance. Bailey revolutionised the guitar and the ripples of that influence stretch far and wide across many idioms. Parker took giant steps beyond his original master, John Coltrane, to become one of the most original saxophonists in the world.

Bailey and Holland had originally played together in John Steven's Spontaneous Improvisation Ensemble back in the late 60's - alongside Evan Parker. Historical note: Tony Oxley, Parker and Bailey founded Incus records, which was and is a prime source for UK improvised music:

'Tony Oxley had the original idea, Michael Walters put up the money and Derek Bailey and Evan Parker were recruited as co-directors. Since then, Walters, Oxley and Parker have, at different times, left.'

This live recording of 'Improvised Piece iv' dates from 1971. Holland on cello draws out rich dark brown sounds and Bailey responds in pointillistic fashion at first, gradually coming more into the conversation as Holland goes higher, stringing out those jumpy, kinked, staggering lines from his guitar (hint of Monk somewhere way back?). Ebb and flow – the tidal movement of free improvisation – fading to silence and returning with high ethereal bowed notes, becoming more scratchy as the guitar plays popping phrases. The cello moves to pizzicato in an echo of the guitar (and more conventional jazz bass?) Very physical music in the sense of the foregrounding of the bowing, plucking and plectrum on the strings... the cello gives a classical flavour of idiom – Bailey's electric guitar something else – coming from jazz (via his interest in Webern) but not jazz – combining to build on the new sonic areas spinning off the back of the 60's that were distinctly European...

I stumbled across this link to the recording of the recent John Zorn tribute to Derek B at the Barbican – which I intended to go to – but my erratic health screwed up my being able to attend, unfortunately. I heard the playback on the Radio 3 website and it was damn good...

Onwards...

'In 1992 [Evan Parker formed] the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble to explore more fully the potential of live electronics in improvisation, a potential that has grown as the technology has become more sophisticated.'

This is Parker at a distance from the usual hurley burley of scratch and skronk. The acoustic instruments - horn and strings – are involved in conversations with electronic processing by the musicians and Walter Prati and Marco Vecchi, the programmers. A fascinating, slow and meditative organic journey... in a movement similar to the previous track, the cultural resonance of the strings (=classical/serious) gives a sense of modern chamber music – the occasional faint high flutters of soprano sax add just a slight tinge of jazz filtered through twenty years of the post -coltrane avant-garde. Yet this improvised music is not jazz - possessing no beats/rhythms or acoustic inflections which would usually be associated with the broad stream of that music. Although Parker has a very long reach and returns to more jazz-orientated improvising when the spirit moves him. (As we shall no doubt see in future posts...). A true original...

Evan Parker
(Evan Parker (soprano saxophone, gong); Phillip Wachsmann (violin, viola, electronics, sound processing); Barry Guy (acoustic bass); Paul Lytton (percussion, programming); Walter Prati, Marco Vecchi (programming).
Download
Trahütten

Buy

Derek Bailey/Dave Holland
Download
Improvised Piece iv

Buy – out of print ECM album which - to my knowledge - has not yet been re-released on cd – a few copies out there if you trawl the Internet...

12 comments:

Peter said...

thanks for the bailey/holland. never heard that stuff before. interesting to hear bailey's guitar being given the proto-ecm treatment ie: too much reverb. it really doesn't suit him, does it?

Molly Bloom said...

I can't seem to download the first piece...probably to do with my computer..not you...but I'm just downloading the second now. I'm intrigued about the cello and can't wait to hear it. It's interesting to take a (like you say) serious/classical instrument and take it in new directions.

Oh yes, the cello starts straight away...in a poignant way, underlying the plucking. Then it really starts to go into magical realms. Sometimes when you play a stringed instrument like that it almost sounds like a drum.

Now I'm just thinking aloud...has anyone ever done anything really avant-garde with a harp? I absolutely adore harps and some of the very high parts of this piece remind me of a harp. Hmmm...if anyone can find something with harps...it's you! The cello is one of those instruments that sound very close to the human voice on occasion. I like the emotive quality of it very much. And yet, it can also be highly abstract in the sounds it can produce - raindrop notes and drum-like curses. Horn-like nuances as well.

godoggo said...

I know the question was directed to the host, but I'm gonna jump in anyways. The only jazz name that leaps to mind is the great Alice Coltrane (who took up the harp on the urging of John, who'd gotten into the habit of attending Marx Brothers movies just to hear Harpo play). The beautiful audio samples on this Destination Out post are gone, but they say they say they might repost stuff on request.

One other piece I really like: Lutoslawski's Double Concerto for Oboe, Harp and Chamber Orchestra. Notated music (and I guess not considered particularly avant-garde by people who are deeply into this sort of stuff, though it sounds pretty far-out to me), but the oboe reminds me of Coltrane's soprano.

Now I'll listen.

godoggo said...

meant to link to this: http://destination-out.com/?cat=11

godoggo said...

"Fount 159 Browser Check Errors" for the first piece (on a Mac). That doesn't sound like a good thing somehow.

Rod... said...

the lutoslawski looks interesting, I'll have to check it out... as for harp, I was never a great fan (apart from Harpo - great story about John C!) - but I have some ALice Coltrane I will post and listening to it sort of converted me a bit. Dorothy Ashby was the main harp player in jazz- not a crowded field - wikipedia entry here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Ashby

In recent years, there is Zeena Parkins who has played with John ZOrn among others - more the improv scene than straight jazz but she is good- also Rodri Davies in the UK

godoggo said...

Hmm, I recognize Zeena's name because it's all over Nels Cline's site, so she must be cool. (incidentally, those A. Coltrane mp3s don't seem to have any harp on second listen)

BTW, if I haven't joined in the shower of encomia, it's just because that's not my style; I tend to figure most people know how good their stuff is.

godoggo said...

...and one last then done stalking for the time being. It occurs to me that a harpist I once knew showed me how she had to keep retuning the strings just to run up a chromatic scale, so this would seemingly limit its utility particularly for bop or lateru forms of jazz.

Rod... said...

... well, the harp to me always seemed just plain unwieldy for bebop...

Molly Bloom said...

:( It seems that I'm the only person in blogland who likes harps. Never mind. Lone voice in the wilderness....

Peter said...

can i just second the mention of rhodri davies? i've had the pleasure of playing with him a couple of times in a free improv situation and what comes of the instrument is pretty astonishing. he used to be charlotte church's accompanist as well, and has been known to pay the rent by playing with the cinematic orchestra...

Rod... said...

... yes, Rodri Davies plays some interesting stuff - I have a cd of him with Mark Wastell and Burkhard Beins from which I am going to put up a track when I do the harp post- very different to the Bailey/Parker stuff -
Molly - not against harps as such, just didn't really hear them in orthodox jazz/bebop type stuff - in other idioms such as free improv I have heard some performances whcih work really well