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Album Review

Boustrophedon (In Six Furrows) was recorded in Munich during September of 2004 — immediately following the night Roscoe Mitchell recorded Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3. What the two recordings have in common is that they were both created using a transatlantic group of musicians, some of whom played on both dates. This disc was conceived as its counterpart. The group here is an interesting one: it consists of Evan Parker and his longtime mates and partners in crime Paul Lytton, Barry Guy, Philipp Wachsmann, and John Rangecroft. It also features Mitchell and his brilliant Note Factory quartet with Craig Taborn, Tani Tabbal, and Jaribu Shahid, with other friends such as Anders Svanoe, Neil Metcalfe, Corey Wilkes, Nils Bultmann, and Marcio Mattos — all told, a 14-piece orchestra. Parker, who composed this music and conducts, is featured here on soprano. Like Mitchell's offering, this is a music based on strategies, as the title would suggest. Boustrophedon is a Greek word meaning "turning like an ox while plowing" — hence, the word "furrows" in the title. In fact, Parker quotes a beautiful passage from Samuel Beckett's The Expelled that offers its own explanation by trying to count stairs adequately first by climbing up and then again when walking down. The music here moves in much the same way, with vertical ascent and descent according to innate scalar challenges and horizontally in both directions as well. Textural elements, tonal colors by the different combinations of contrasting players on any given track, drama, dynamic, and (of course) the degree of improvisation held within this manner of working all present numerous challenges as well as opportunities. This music is not jazz — free or otherwise — nor is it merely classical formalism or improvisation deconstruction. Instead, Parker's compositions are scored with the idea of bringing together, through his very European outlook, the different ways region, distance, cultural difference, and discipline combine to make something else: a new work that maintains an identity that is transcultural and trans-aesthetic. This is one work divided into six sections for easy CD programming (on LP this would never happen). Parker is more restrained, much more patient to let his lines and chromatic changes occur as they begin to appear, enhancing them with spirited improvisation that nonetheless leaves its edges at the door. It is as compelling as Mitchell's album, although very different. It is an exercise in musical mystery, chance, and opaque textures that get inside the listener and stay there a bit before moving on toward the next plateau.


Born: 05 April 1944 in Bristol, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Among Europe's most innovative and intriguing saxophonists, Evan Parker's solos and playing style are distinguished by his creative use of circular breathing and false fingering. Parker can generate furious bursts, screeches, bleats, honks, and spiraling lines and phrases, and his solo sax work isn't for the squeamish. He's one of the few players not only willing but eager to demonstrate his affinity for late-period John Coltrane. Parker worked with a Coltrane-influenced quartet in Birmingham in...
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