The reverent musical partnership continues to surge onward, as disc 1 features the ³Studio² works and disc 2 contains the ³Live² portion of the program. On this effort, Evan Parker performs on soprano and tenor saxes, and of course, Barry Guy uses his double bass throughout. Here, the fantastic duo engages in multicolored dialogues, amid Parkerıs infamous circular breathing techniques and sinuously executed sound sculptures. And as we might surmise, the intuition displayed during these often probing exercises is simply astonishing. Guy toggles between bowed bass maneuvers during many of the duoıs passages, spanning a macrobiotic outlook combined with counterbalancing statements. One of the more interesting aspects of this production resides within the artistsı penchant for rendering odd tonalities, amid contrapuntal diatribes, which is perhaps a facet of their organic approach. As themes disappear and resurface in various shapes and fragments. Itıs an evolutionary process for sure! RecommendedŠ
Glenn Astarita., USA, Aug 2003


«There's still a kind of mystery about the interaction, the speed in which things can take place.» observes double bassist Barry Guy in the sleevenotes to this woderful set with his old foil saxophonist Evan Parker. As the Hedeggerian sharpshooter in Ed Dorn's great book-length poem Gunslinger (1975) slyly notes, «speed is not necessarily fast» once you have lernt to «eliminate the draw». This empeccable pair have reached that advanced stage, «a tehcnical point where the instrumetn is not in the way», in Guy's words. Speed may still be rapidity – Guy saws furiously and Parker erupts into familiar snarling flurries when accasion demands – but more generally speed is economy of action, twists, turns and deflections, graceful effectiveness. Their improvising knowhow, trained anticipation and focused intuition mean they get there quickly, even when moving relatively slowly. So Guy is right to talk aof speed in which, rather than with wich, things occur.
Birds And Blades pairs a studio and a live concert recording, made on consecutive days in 2001 in Zürich. Guy plays five string bass, Parker soprano and tenor horns. Their registers mesh in spectral harmonics and twittering, growls and deep friction. Few bassists rival Guy in terms of lightness of touch, clarity and subtlety of execution. In some hands the instrument's solidity can get stifling over longer distances, but Guy's bass always sounds ventilated and uncluttered, allied to air more than earth, while Parker's now engrained repertoire of techniques and trajectories is aerated by inventiveness and risk.
The studio pieces are generally shorter and, although continually in flux from moment to moment, they have the feel of carefully crafted statements. The live performances are loosere yet edgier, mapping nerve ends as crucial choices are made. Differences of approach in these differing contexts are immediately discernible, and that contrast adds to the experience of hearing them together as d double CD. The studio date suggests relaxed concentration; in concert there's a hint of vulnerability even for such seasoned and accomplished practitioners.
Parker and Guy's duo activity dates from Incision, recorded in 1981. But their musical alliance started furhter back, in the mid-1960s at London's Little Theatre Club and as members of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Decades later, skills honed, energies distilled, they still spark off one anohter's individuality, still sounds vital and excited and the interaction remains mysterious.

JULIAN COWLEY, The WIre, London, May 2003



My introduction to British Jazz came via my purchase at age 15 of fusion wunderkinds Soft Machine's THIRD in 1970. Alto player Elton Dean frightened me the most early on, despite his strong identification with many American Jazzers like Coltrane, but I kept listening because something knocked about in this music which I felt challenged to understand. Eventually of course I did 'get' it and moved on to the more instrumentally (if not musically) traditional Brit bands such as Keith Tippett's Ark and Dean's own Ninesense.

Evan Parker, occasional holder of the tenor chair in Ninesense early on and a tremendous fount of inspiration on the Brit Jazz scene since the mid-1960s, is from an European avant direction. His improvisational lines are often serialist in content and his melodic bent as abstract as Dean's can be, but Parker has less of a tendency to go for the 'ecstatic' upper register. Instead Parker will twist his train of thought inside a smaller space, leading the listener on a series of notes which interlock and attack the center of a chord; once he touches on that center he'll leap out to an adjoining chord and do the same again. It's a sort of abstract impressionism, and can be heard to peerless effect on this double set (one studio, one live) with Brit bassist Barry Guy.

On set one's "Barrage" (studio, with Guy leading) Parker's tenor modulates in its middle register with a tremendous compression. He seems to want to hit every possible note in the chord he's exploring with differing accents and differing sequences. This may seem a bit akin to Coltrane's method in his days with Miles Davis, only Parker has a mathematical precision and a taste for stringing tones together that one might have expected of Varese. Often the chords are ones Parker's made up!

Guy, Parker's cohort on this excellent set, was the leader more often than not of the late and lamented London Jazz Composers Orchestra (also on INTAKT Records) and a scion of Brit Jazz for as many years as Parker. These two have been in LJCO simultaneously as well as in a fine trio with percussionist Paul Lytton, among many other bands.

Guy is as outward-directed as Parker is inward, and some of his lines have a Xenakis-like flavor. This confluence of preferences makes me think that if you are a fan of the European 20th and 21st century classicists, this might be the set that opens the door for you into improvised music. Wittily in an interview with Bill Shoemaker in the companion book, Parker makes it clear that composing and improv do both include the process of "putting things together." About Parker's thoughtful Mandelbrot-set-like arabesques in "Birds and Blades," Guy strikes in near- concentric shapes past him, shaving metallic longbowed tones at one point as if he were using dry paintbrushes on a set of ride cymbals. Freed of a need to do other than nod here and there to the implied rhythm - in fact Parker will often play as many bass notes as Guy does, even with his soprano - Guy will triangulate on a related cloud of notes to where Parker is exploring, (especially on the four lengthy live bits on CD2), imitating the horn's attack (cf. "Point In Line") making a frame of reference for Parker to bubble and fulminate inside. But on the live set's "Circling" they'll locate themselves side by side, flaring like twin suns. This is 127 minutes of peerless improvisation; cheap at twice the price!

by Ken Egbert, Jazz Now Magazine. Mai 2003.



"Ogni concerto con Evan è una nuova scoperta - ha detto qualche anno fa Barry Guy - Il tipo di musica che facciamo insieme è molto aperto e tra di noi c'è un'interazione continua: tutte le volte che suoniamo in duo, in trio con Paul Lytton o in altri contesti è sempre un'esperienza molto intensa, unica".

Veri e propri inventori della musica improvvisata britannica e figure carismatiche dell'avanguardia internazionale, il sassofonista Evan Parker ed il contrabbassista Barry Guy lavorano assieme da tre decenni e il loro primo disco in duo (intitolato Incision e pubblicato dalla FMP) risale al 1981. Pochi anni dopo, nel 1985, ripetevano la collaborazione con il poco noto Tai Kyoku [Jazz & Now] ed un nuovo incontro è avvenuto nel 1994 in Obliquities, inciso per l'etichetta Maya.

I due hanno hanno continuato a relazionarsi intensamente nel trio con Paul Lytton ma com'è ovvio, il lavoro in duo apre nuove prospettive, è un'altra cosa. Questo doppio compact pubblicato dall'etichetta svizzera Intakt, e registrato a Zurigo, mostra la dimensioni in studio e quella dal vivo di un approccio improvvisativo che è meglio chiamare composizione istantanea.

Come spiegano i due musicisti a Bill Shoemaker nell'interessante intervista del booklet, ogni brano è costruito in tempo reale e la dimensione ambientale - la presenza o meno del pubblico - influenza in molti modi lo sviluppo dei temi. Non è un caso, dunque, che il primo CD (registrato in studio il 6 settembre 2001) contenga brani più brevi e concisi, certamente più leggibili nei rispettivi sviluppi ed ambiti di ricerca. Quando il giorno successivo i due hanno registrato il loro concerto allo Spères Bar Buch & Bühne le improvvisazioni sono risultate ben più ampie, articolate e imprevedibili.

è ovviamente impossibile, in questa sede, entrare nel dettaglio dei percorsi musicali ma è doveroso notare che la collaborazione tra i due maestri non cessa di sorprendere per la ferrea logica costruttiva ed è ben lontana dalla stanca celebrazione. In definitiva, come ogni modello espressivo (è successo al be-bop ed anche al free) anche questo si basa su un corpus di codici elaborati nel tempo, che qualche artista ripropone ormai senza fantasia, fingendosi "all'avanguardia". Invece, come ogni grande arte, la musica di Parker e Guy, non s'è fermata. Continua ad emozionare e sorprendere per il concentrato interplay e gli sviluppi avventurosi mostrandosi ora aggrovigliata e magmatica, ora aleatoria e volatile in una sorta di astratto camerismo.

Le magistrali capacità espressive di Evan Parker creano labirinti sonori caratterizzati da microvariazioni timbriche, elaborano lunghe iterazioni per mezzo della respirazione circolare o più semplicemente disegnano astratte melodie di semplice e suggestiva bellezza. Si ascolti ad esempio l'esemplare, ascetico, intervento al soprano in "Cut and Trust".

Barry Guy, da canto suo è un bassista capace di esplorare le più recondite possibilità dello strumento, creando e dissolvendo tensioni ritmiche con l'uso ortodosso (ma più spesso eterodosso) dell'archetto e del pizzicato. In definitiva un prodotto musicale eccellente, certamente impegnativo ma capace di ripagare coloro che sanno ascoltare.
Valutazione: * * * * (Intakt - Svizzera - 2003 - distr. I.R.D.)

Angelo Leonardi, Allaboutjazz-Italy, July 2003. (



EVAN PARKER / JOE MCPHEE Chicago Tenor Duets OkkaDisk OD 12033
BARRY GUY / EVAN PARKER Birds and Blades Intakt Double CD 080
Two more aural essays on the subtle art of the duo, these CDs feature three improvisers who long ago proved that they can hold their own in musical situations involving any size of band. Connection between the two discs comes from the presence of British saxophonist Evan Parker, who with his philosophical theories and technical mastery has been producing intelligent commentary on reed advancement since the mid-1960s. On BIRDS AND BLADES, A two-CD set recorded in Zürich in 2001, he's partnered with longtime confrere bassist Barry Guy. Another cerebral experimenter, the bassist and the sax man have worked in contexts from big bands to duos for years, with their first duo meeting taking place in 1981.

On hand for CHICAGO TENOR DUETS, which (no surprise) was recorded in the Illinois city in 1998, with Parker featured exclusively on tenor sax -- he also plays soprano on the double disc -- is American Joe McPhee. Intellectual in a similar fashion to his Brit counterparts, the reedist recorded a trio -- all soprano saxophones -- session with Parker and French player Daunik Lazro in 1995. Over the years he has also had separate dual sax meetings with American Joe Giardullo, Lazro and another French highbrow, woodwind stylist André Jaume.

More than a rematch, CHICAGO TENOR is set up as an experiment to see what unique dialogue(s) can arise from using the lower-pitched woodwind, now that the two have investigated its higher-pitched sibling. The results will only upset those with an outmoded view of the so-called avant garde. There may be squeaks, squeals, multiphonics and a variety of extended techniques on show, but overall, the axe's entrenched definition is amplified and only slightly redefined.

In this series of 11 duets, motifs including rolling tones, circular chases and unison smears are more prominent than endless circular breathing -- a Parker specialty. At times the two sound like one man -- Rahsaan Roland Kirk, perhaps -- playing two saxes simultaneously, at other times they elaborate the same line, creating octaves apart from one another. Otherwise, Parker and McPhee are two reedmen soloing in the same place at the same time, but not playing together. There are points where what they do can be visually compared to an amoeba, with their sounds glancing off on another, then splitting apart within milliseconds. Harmonically, the reedists can twin one another, or singly create cavernous fog horn sounds, buzzing lines, hisses of pure air or harsh key-popping mouthpiece percussion. All in all they seem to gain strength and confidence as the session proceeds almost chronologically, with "Duet 8" and "Duet 11" -- each just a little less than 11 minutes -- their most concentrated showcases. The former finds them spewing out double honks that blend into one whole tone, but played enough apart so you know two horns are involved. One then offers up twittering and trilling buoyant reed slides, while the other ripostes with squealing split reed tones and rolling tongue slaps. Staccato pinpoint notes soon meet key pops until the duo joins again for unison air hisses. "Duet 11" finds both venturing into buoyant, so-called BritImprov territory with near inaudible sighs. These are succeeded by growling undertones and adagio buzzing acoustic drones, as accented notes cycle back and forth. The climax comes when Parker introduces circular breathing, with a basso countermotif from McPhee existing until they join together for a coda. McPhee and Parker's meeting also isn't a sparring match, neither is the duo with Guy and Parker.

Although the results on the one live and one studio session that make up BIRDS AND BLADES, usually whirl by at an speedier and more strident pace than what was created by the tenor tandem, this two-CD set is another heartfelt dialogue. Peculiarly, the seven studio-recorded instant compositions are listed as being by Guy-Parker; in contrast the four live tracks that appear to have been created by Parker-Guy. Whether this is a musical version of political correctness or an indication of which player contributes the most to each group of tunes is uncertain. Surely the idea of a duo is that neither partner is paramount. Moving from nomenclature to sounds, the live tracks run a minimum of slightly more than 14 minutes to more than 19 minutes. As Parker notes, the great length results from a fear of finding out the audience isn't enjoying itself. Fat chance. Take "Circling" -- an appropriate description of just about everything played on all three CDs -- for instance.

A mixture of notated and improvised sections, like everything else the duo plays, it begins with Parker's nearly patented circular breathing reconstructing itself as the sound of a flock of chirping feathered creatures, filling the sky with different melodies and tones. Squeals and strums then arise from Guy's bass as he rubs, picks and forcefully pulls at the four strings. His constant arco motion melds with cheeping, flute-like reed wiggles from Parker, occasionally interrupted for quick dives into the bass clef.

Eventually, as the saxophonist continues to slipslide out of time, producing great gouts of notes, and as the bassman alternately plucks and bows a corresponding number of tones, you feel your head and solar plexus spinning as the two seem to be sucking all the oxygen out of the air. Just as it seems that you can't accept any more soprano saxophone trills and near-the-pegs string bowing, the tempo abates to adagio, with the piece concluding with serene concert bass bowed lines.

Even on the seven studio compositions, the duo's command of their respective instruments, and the resulting extended techniques are such that the absence of drums isn't noted. Parker can produce quick, clean squeaks as readily as rolling purrs from his horns and Guy is as apt to create fingerpicking clawhammer banjo notes as abrasive, many-stringed bowed sounds. As a matter of fact, on the title tune and longest track, the bass seems to morph into a chamber-filling mythical string quartet, though Guy's delivery is speedier and more metallic than that mixture of violins, viola and cello would create. Meanwhile, the mid-range trilling sounds from Parker's soprano sax describe a perfect Catherine Wheel of sound. Falling in and out of congruence, as the reedist's conveyer belt of sounds appears, Guy breaks up the aural pattern with a series of tiny changes -- bowing deep into the bass clef, at one point, sneaking in quick, classical cello-like associations at others, and turning to mandolin-like flat picking elsewhere.

In this partnership of more than 20 years, each instrumentalist can improvise on his own, sometimes together, but often apart as the tune unravels. This relationship and the one with Parker and McPhee are probably the only non-exploitative examples of separate but equal that has existed since the time of Booker T. Washington. Jointly and singularly, the improvisers featured on these three discs reconfirm that musical elasticity can be built into even as simple a structure as a duo. --
Ken Waxman, Jazzweekly, com. July 2003


Nicht jeder schultert die Last, ein alter Sack zu sein, mit der vitalen Selbstverständlichkeit eines BARRY GUY & EVAN PARKER. Ihre Bekanntschaft rührt aus den ersten Minuten nach dem Anglo-Impro-Urknall her, 1966 im Little Theatre Club, nachzuhören auf SMEs "Withdrawal" (Emanem, 1997). Guy zupfte in den Folgejahren seinen Bass im Howard Riley Trio (1967ff), bei Amalgam (1969) oder Iskra 1903 (1972ff) und parallel spielte er gut bezahlte Barockmusik mit der Academy of Ancient Music und den London Classical Players. Parker entwickelte und entfaltete seinen epochalen Individualstil mit Bailey und Lytton und in jeder denkbaren Formation von der Music Improvisation Company, SME, Tony Oxley, Globe Unity Orchestra bis eben Guy's London Jazz Composer's Orchestra (1970ff). 1981 erfolgte mit "Incision" (FMP) die erste Parker-Guy-Duetteinspielung, 1995 mit "Obliquities" (Maya) eine weitere, dazwischen starteten sie ihre lang anhaltende Kollaboration mit Paul Lytton ("Tracks", Incus, 1983).
Mit Birds and Blades (Intakt 080, 2xCD) ziehen sie nun eine erneute Zwischensumme ihrer musikalischen Schwertkampfkunst. Zuerst beleuchten sie mit 7 kürzeren Studiotracks vom 6.9.2001 konzentriert jeweils bestimmte Facetten und Herangehensweisen ihrer Meisterschaft. Parker geht explizit davon aus, dass ihre "Mittel, die Kontrolle über Material und Artikulation und das intuitive Wechselspiel besser geworden " sind. Improvisieren ist für ihn nichts anderes als eine "Kompositionstechnik", Guy bringt zusätzlich den Begriff "Montage" ins Spiel. Für ihn selbst hat sich der Umstieg auf einen 5-Saiten-Bass als die "bahnbrechende Entwicklung der jüngeren Zeit" herausgestellt. Der nach oben erweiterte Tonumfang ermöglicht ihm ein noch gleichberechtigteres, ausbalancierteres Interagieren mit Parkers Klangspektrum, das nur in seiner Rasanz horizontal ausgerichtet scheint. Im Detail macht seine Klangstenographie die wildesten vertikalen Bocksprünge, denen Guy nun auf allen Ebenen seine ebenso harmonische wie rhythmische Virtuosität entgegenhalten kann, so dass sie sich wie Vögel "gemeinsam emporschwingen können". Im Livekonzert am Folgetag in der Züricher Sphères Bar Buch & Bühne streckten sich die stupenden Zwitschermaschinendialoge, aus einer gewissen Angst vor dem ausbleibenden Beifall, so der übertrieben selbstkritische Parker, zu 14- bis 19-minütigen Bewusstseinsströmen. Parker beschreibt das unüberbietbar treffend mit: "Effectively, we're just machines turning sunlight into music." Ihre Musik würde, als 'Sprache' genommen, in ihrer Hyperinformationsfülle Bände füllen mit minuziösesten Details über die Empathie- und Kommunikationsfähigkeit zweier Homme machines und über die zwischen Lust und Panik schillernde Verve, mit der sie sich in die entropischen Fluten stürzen, damit sich deren zunehmend flachere und zähflüssigere Oberfläche kräuselt. Meine, wie üblich, blumige [bloomige] Sicht der Dinge korrespondiert mit dem, was Marcus Maida in seiner lesenswerten INTAKT-Story (JAZZTHETIK 07/08 03) etwas prosaischer der Musik auf Patrik Landolts Label insgesamt zuschreibt - die "Kunst der Differenzierung".
Rigo Dittmann, Bad Alchemy, Nr. 42/2003

For almost four decades, believe it or not, Parker and Guy have been performing their high-wire balancing act between ethereal otherworldly ghost music and organic earthen free firmament. Whether in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, their longs-standing trio with Paul Lytton, or Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra, this rich pairing has yielded up consistent pleasures. Only rarely, however, have they played as a duo: Incision, the very rare Tai Kyokyu, Obliquities and now this fine double-disc (graced not only by superb music but by a long informative interview with Bill Shoemaker). There has been a lot so discussion lately about the influence that first-generation European players like Parker and Guy currently have on junior generations of players. While their skill and power is not questioned, there are many who wonder if the old masters are simply playing in the same styles, sending out messages with the same tone and idiom, simply finding new templates on which to inscribe the same phrases. Even if this were the case (and Iím not entirely sure it is) it wouldnít mean that the music wasn't supremely enjoyable. Indeed, there is something to be said for long-standing partnerships as well as for the raw discovery of first-time encounters. This two-disc set - the first studio and the second live - stands as a definitive document not only of where Guy and Parker now stand but of their cumulative wondrous contribution to modern improvisation. A blow-by-blow narrative of the proceedings is neither useful nor desirable, but suffice it to say that highlights abound. On the studio disc, you can delight in the pizzicato frenzy of 'Alar', the tough 'Swordplay' (which is almost a combination of Parker's more recent return to Jazz phrasing and his familiar slashing darting style, all amid Guy's veritable symphony of arco overtones), the crazed musical double helix of 'Froissement' (with sawing and circular breathing) , and the muscular contrast of 'Cut and Thrust'. One key to this music is the ways in which these players use layers of sound (not to say sheets, of course) and generate several different structures at once. For all the force and determination, the seemingly inevitable course of this music, itís not a power session; there's a good deal more subtlety than that. The live set opens with ominous shade - a good texture here that sounds new for this duo, almost as if their loquaciousness has been hushed to secretive whispers. These pieces are more patient and exploratory (they're also longer). I tend to prefer slightly the concentrated studio pieces. 'Circling', however, has some of the nimblest arco/tenor synergy of the entire twofer. This music sounds for all the world as the release is named, like blades being sharpened and glinting in the sunlight while a crowd of tranced out birds swoons and coos at the sight of it. They soar and dive, even putting down roots in the earth on occasion. Your position in the above mentioned debates will surely vary. But whatever you do, don't deny yourself the pleasures of this music.
Jason Bivins, Cadence, USA, August 2003


Neue CDs europäischer Free-Jazz-Pioniere auf dem Intakt-Label
Was die Väter von den Söhnen gelernt haben

Von Peter Niklaus Wilson

Altherrenmusik? Das wäre doch ein bisschen unfreundlich formuliert. Obwohl: Seit den Mitt- oder Spätsechzigern sind die meisten von ihnen schon dabei. 35 Jahre und mehr im Dienst der Sache, der Sache Freie Musik. Drei, vier Jahrzehnte on the road, jeden Abend Tabula rasa, jeden Abend die Musik von neuem erfinden.
Doch müde wirkt keiner von ihnen, wie drei neuere CDs des Zürcher Intakt-Labels belegen. Nicht dass Intakt ein Label für Altherrenmusik wäre. Schliesslich sind dort jüngst auch höchst respektable Neuproduktionen jüngerer Schweizer Improvisierender wie Lucas Niggli, Omri Ziegele und Co Streiff erschienen, von der langen Serie von Intakt-Veröffentlichungen der Lokalmatadorin Irène Schweizer ganz abzusehen. Aber nun, da die durch interne Querelen paralysierte Berliner Free Music Production kaum noch die Musik jener Musiker dokumentiert, die über Jahrzehnte ihr Gesicht prägten, sind, so scheint es, die Intakt-Macher freundlicherweise in die Bresche gesprungen.

Altherrenmusik? Der Auftritt des Globe Unity Orchestra in Aachen im Januar 2002, das erste Treffen der Free-Jazz-Gründerväterriege seit 1986, wäre schon geeignet, dem maliziösen Etikett einige Nahrung zu geben. In ungewohnt kleiner Runde hatte man sich da versammelt, nur zu neunt, ohne die einstigen Stammgäste Kowald und Mangelsdorff, Wheeler oder Dudek. Doch unter sich, so scheint es, wollte man wohl doch bleiben. Die alten Haudegen: Spiritus Rector Schlippenbach, die good old boys Brötzmann und Petrowsky, Schoof und Lovens, Parker und Rutherford.


Globe Unity: Könnte das heute nicht mehr heissen als ein Treffen der Impro-Erstligisten aus England und Deutschland? Könnte man, wenn man das Projekt schon neu belebt, nicht über eine Verjüngung nachdenken? Die nämlich könnte auch der Musik des Kollektivs nicht schaden. Nicht, dass da Lustlosigkeit zu beklagen wäre. Aber die auf Dauer doch recht unverbindliche Kraftmeierei der aufbrausenden Hochenergie-Tutti (oder ihre Alternative in Gestalt eines nicht minder unverbindlichen Lyrismus) wirkt doch so, als seien neuere Entwicklungen der improvisierten Musik weitgehend spurlos an der Vätergeneration vorübergegangen. Was auf der Haben-Seite bleibt, ist eine durch orchestrale Einwürfe gegliederte Folge prägnanter Solo-Statements.

Vier Monate vor dem Aachener Revival-Treffen waren Evan Parker und Barry Guy in Zürich zu Gast. Einmal im DRS-Rundfunkstudio, tags darauf in der Zürcher Sphères-Bar. Free-Musik-Ikonen einmal mehr, doch nun im intimen Duo-Kontext. Und prompt ändert sich die Perspektive. Denn hört man den Saxofonisten und den Bassisten in frühen Aufnahmen und hört man die beiden heute, so wird unmittelbar evident, wie viel reicher die persönlichen Vokabulare mit den Jahren geworden sind: höchst nuancenreich und höchst virtuos zugleich. Kaum fassbar das Tempo der Aktionen und Interaktionen: Fast scheint es, als agierten Guy und Parker auf einer Zeitebene jenseits der menschlichen - der Komponist Gérard Grisey sprach von einer «Zeit der Vögel und der Insekten». Solche Hypertrophie ist indes Segen und Fluch zugleich. Denn zumal Barry Guys Insistieren auf diesem überaktiven Temponiveau verleiht der so detailüberreichen, so filigran verzahnten Duo-Musik den Charakter einer - so paradox es klingt - hysterischen Gleichförmigkeit: faszinierend, doch über die Strecke zweier üppig gefüllter CDs auch ermüdend.


Diesem Dilemma ist das dritte von Intakt dokumentierte Ensemble gestandener Free-Heroen geschickt aus dem Weg gegangen. «Between Heaven and Earth», Conrad Bauer, Peter Kowald, Günter Sommer im Studio von DRS Zürich Ende 2001: eher knappe Charakterstücke als lang ausgespielte improvisatorische Bögen, Fokussierung auf bestimmte Klangmaterialien mit Gespür für deren Halbwertszeit.

Ein ungemein wendiger und feinsinniger Posaunist, ein erdiger Bassist mit reicher Weltkultur-Erfahrung und ein Perkussionist, der den Namen verdient, also nicht nur die pulsierenden, sondern auch die punktuellen und koloristischen Aspekte seines Instrumentariums klug einzusetzen versteht: So entsteht eine zwischen Rubato, freiem Puls und konkreter Metrik changierende Musik des Moments, die sehr wohl die selbst geschaffene Tradition des freien Spiels bewahrt, ohne bei einer Revival-Inszenierung der Free-Aufbruchsjahre stehen zu bleiben. Und wenn man schon über «Altherrenmusik» polemisiert - wäre das nicht Altherrenmusik der besten denkbaren Art?

Peter Niklaus Willsonİ Basler Zeitung; 2003-09-13; Feuilleton

Globe Unity Orchestra 2002. Intakt CD 086.
Barry Guy-Evan Parker/Evan Parker-Barry Guy: «Birds and Blades». Intakt Double CD 080.
Bauer-Kowald-Sommer: «Between Heaven and Earth». Intakt CD 079. Vertrieb: RecRec.



l'accademia dell'improvvisazione
Il contrabbassista Barry Guy e il sassofonista Evan Parker ogni tanto si incontrano e registrano qualcosa che, in un modo o nell'altro, diventa un CD, o, come in questo caso, un doppio CD. Il primo dei due che compongono questo "Birds and Blades" è stato registrato a Zurigo nell'unica giornata del 6 settembre 2001, mentre il secondo il giorno successivo, sempre a Zurigo, con il medesimo set ma su un palco. Come molti sicuramente già sapranno la collaborazione tra i due va avanti da quasi un trentennio (London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, ecc.) e le improvvisazioni che sono in gradi di imbastire a occhi chiusi godono della sicurezza che solo una profonda condivisione di intenti e una conoscenza artistica reciproca riesce a determinare.
Il tran-tran professionale dei due li spinge a crearsi innumerevoli possibilità di registrare e proporre qua e là documentazioni di episodiche esibizioni che catturano i diversi momenti dell'attività di entrambi. Detto questo, un doppio album può sicuramente inibire rispetto alla mole di materiale presentato, tutto rigorosamente fedele a un tipo di esplorazione sonora che coinvolge più di ogni altra dimensione quella della ricognizione sullo strumento. Forti di un'incessante attività di studio "in progress" sui rispettivi attrezzi del mestiere (qui Parker al tenore e soprano), i due si dicono improvvisare, ma in realtà ripercorrono incessantemente un bagaglio di suoni, movimenti, articolazioni che ormai vive nel loro Dna improvvisativo, quasi come se comporre in maniera estemporanea fosse diventata un'operazione consuetudinaria come mangiare, parlare o respirare.
Sarebbe interessante sapere se dietro il giochetto di anteporre i nomi dell'uno o dell'altro nei crediti delle tracce (nel primo CD riportate come Guy/Parker, nel secondo Parker/Guy) c'è anche un significato performativo o è semplicemente un gesto di buona cavalleria. Anche perché non sembra esserci un pensiero organizzativo a priori, ma al contrario uno sviluppo paritetico basato su ascolti reciproci e reciproche risposte: in altre parole, l'accademia dell'improvvisazione.
İ / Michele Coralli, 2003



Protagonisti tra i più arditi nella sperimentazione di certa musica improvvisata durante i pericolosi anni Settanta, Barry Guy ed Evan Parker rinnovano il loro sodalizio quasi quarantennale con un duo dalle simbiotiche e inusuali alchimie. La loro è una musica non cercata ma semmai predestinata alla mutazione, nelle cui incursioni ritroviamo i tratti dominanti di un costante combattimento ad armi pari in un regno fondato sull'azzardo e sulla violazione, sulla lotta e sul vacillamento di questi. Il progetto, sapientemente suddiviso in un cd da studio e in uno live, registrato il giorno seguente in un pub di Zurigo, fonda la sua vocazione nell'impareggiabile precarietà dei singoli itinerari. Parker è maestro assoluto di doppie note e accordi (sia al soprano che al tenore), di quella interminabile cascata di suoni mai arrestata grazie ad una superba proverbiale tecnica della respirazione circolare. Di contro il contrabbassista inglese è invece intento a creare una sorta di melodia liberatoria ricca di aforismi e di arcane parole d'ordine dalle quali si dipartono gli inusuali meccanismi dei due. Intrecci e disintegrazioni, interposizioni e toccanti illusorie segmentazioni sonore vengono esposte in maniera meno laboriosa e più felicemente spontanea nel disco dal vivo, probabilmente uno dei lavori più accattivanti ed esemplari di questo primo squarcio dell'anno.
Gianmichele Taormina, Jazzit, 2003, Italia


Evan Parker, perhaps the John Coltrane of English music, has made a career of lending his utterly unique approach to any number of long-standing groups and individual recordings. By virtue of his complex musicianship and extremely open approach to group playing, he fits seamlessly in any configuration into which he is drawn, never dominating or flashy, always bludgeoningly tasteful - one could not write better parts for him than he seems to snatch out of the air. Alder Brook finds him in a relatively new sphere, that of contemporary classical music; it must be said though that much of his previous output has already visited this realm and that September Winds, the Swiss horn quartet, is fully capable of working with both forms and freedoms. In 2000, Parker and the group made their first recordings, a duo between Parker and clarinetist Peter Schmid and a double album of Parker in various permutations with the quartet members and as a full quintet. Two years later, the group has reconvened for this record, 11 shortish arrangements and free improvisations. This is difficult cerebral music. The fact that it is short doesn't make it easier on the listener (it seems the longer avant garde music goes on, the simpler it is to disregard it). One piece will stop and another very different piece will begin. The instrumentation - Parker on soprano, tenor and contrabass saxes; Schmid and Reto Senn on bass and contrabass clarinets (Senn also plays taragot); Hans Anliker on trombone and Jürg Solothurnmann on alto and soprano - is unusual and, despite being familiar to jazz listeners, has little to do with that form. The space and sophistication of the textures, usually very somber and solemn (though Parker does get one exhilarating circular breathed workout), make even Anthony Braxton's most esoteric work seem almost swinging. Birds and Blades: Studio/Live is a new step in the development of the duo album. Its format, two CDs recorded in the studio and live, solves the dilemma so often stated in the expression "you should hear them live" or "the record is much better than the concert". Listeners can now make that determination for themselves and the two musicians, Parker on tenor and soprano and Guy on bass, cannot hide behind the spontaneity of performance or the stability of the studio. The opportunity to hear improvised music in these two settings, recorded one day apart to maintain some continuity of theme, is unique and lends the recording an air of journal entries or correspondence reporting. The album is actually antithetical to most other duo albums. Typical examples can be leader and follower (particularly when one instrument is a bass); attempts to match generally disparate instruments (see the Jim Hall/Bill Evans duets); or two of the same instruments to highlight either similarities or differences in approach. Where Birds and Blades differs is that Guy and Parker both are capable of determining a piece's direction. Even more compelling, both have such advanced technique that during the more frenzied moments, instrumental timbres coalesce. The two have the same approach on drastically different instruments. That they have played together since 1971 highlights this. Careful attention should be paid to Guy's recreation of Parker's singular circular breathing or Parker's mimicry of Guy's sophisticated extended bass method. Disc one, recorded in a Zurich studio, is seven tracks ranging from the opening melodic "Alar" at under four minutes to the closing title track at 14-and-a-half. The second disc, recorded in a Zurich club, is four longer pieces averaging 16 minutes apiece. It is unclear whether there is some significance that the studio tracks are credited to "Guy/Parker" and the live ones to "Parker/Guy". Listening to both in order, the listener is struck by how the live performance seems more introverted, as if the duo realizes that much of the delicate interplay will be lost. The studio tracks are rich in detail - Parker and Guy have the solitude to really take in each other's playing whereas the live performance has in some ways to include the audience. Whether there is a conscious effort to make the performance the conclusion of the encounter or if the studio time was the real fire of the two days is up to the individual listener. Taken alone, each is a compelling document of two giants of their respective instruments. In tandem, Birds and Blades is a series of snapshots entered lovingly into Parker and Guy's decades-thick photo album.


Bassist Barry Guy and saxophonist Evan Parker are the sort of improvisers who can step into any situation and make compelling music. But thereıs no denying the power of history; in their case, over three decades of playing together, including 23 years (and counting) in one of the great sax-bass drums trios (with Paul Lytton), and several as 30% of the ground-breaking work of Parkerıs Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. Theirs is a history of support and challenge; challenge by oneıs peers to outdo oneself, and the material moral-technical encouragement that enables each to do so. Both musicians are distinctive instrumentalists and they have an equally identifiable shared vocabulary, so much so that some question wheter what they do is really improvisation. But those fixed elements are part of the challenge, part of the support; the players know that theyıre going to use them, but also that they mustnıt simply fall back on them . In Birds And Bladesıs liner notes Parker and Guy embrace the notion that their improviasation fall within rather than in opposition to a compositional continuum. Sure, youıve heard Parker do his circular breathing soprano sax thing before, but somehow itıs no less gripping here; because Guy knows so well what Parker can do, he does the right things to keep all doors open while Parker blows on and on, but no one knows exactly what his moves will be. A word about the sound of the recording; engineer Martin Pearson has done a splendid job of capturing the details of each manıs playing without calling attention to the engineering itself. Intricate, intense and deeply thoughtful, this is music of very high level. If you get just one record with Evan Parker this year, you wonıt be doing yourself any harm if you make it this one.
Bill Meyer, Signal To Noise (USA), 2003



Die Feinsinnigste
Barry Guy und Evan Parker - Der Bassist und der Saxophonist, beides improvisatorische Urgesteine, sind seit vielen Jahren persönliche und musikalische Freunde. Auf dem Duo-Doppelalbum «Birds and Blades» begehen sie diese Freundschaft, einmal im Studio, einmal live. Grossartig!
Richard Butz, Saiten 12/03


This is a weighty 2-CD set by Guy and Parker - the first disc recorded in the studio and the second recorded live from September 2001 sessions in Zurich. Birds and Blades may seem like one of those arbitrary titles improvisers apply to their music after the event, but Guy suggests that «blades» relates to the «cut and thrust» of an incisive musical argument. If so, then surely «birds» is poetic license for the elegant fluidity of ideas that take wing between these two most experienced practitioners of the improvisersı art. During a fascinating extended sleeve note interview, Guy also comments that studio recording allows improvising musicians space to «research specific areas». This studio set contains some of the most concentrated and concise examples of Guy and Parker Iıve heard, and their area of exploration has been distilled into labyrinthine webs of two-part conversation. Parkerıs distinctive circular-breathing technique on soprano sax is more dissipated than usual, his sudden outbursts cushioned by Guyıs glacially cool bowing. Behind the screen of Guyıs bowing is a busy network of capriciously thumbed pizzicato notes and gently strummed drones, while bass harmonics fuse with supersonic sustained high saxophone notes to create the illusions of a twoheaded beast. The live session is more expansive and less etude-like than the studio set, but enlarges on ist atmosphere. Hugely rewarding each second crammed with a disorientating level of elevated detail.
Philip Clark, Double Bassist, Winter 2003


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