Recorded live in Munich, Evan Parker’s “Boustrophedon” is the companion volume to Roscoe Mitchell’s highly-acclaimed “Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3” and features an identical line-up, the Transatlantic Art Ensemble assembled by the two great saxophonists.
Unlike any other album in Evan Parker’s vast discography (he has appeared on more than 250 discs, mostly for small labels specialized in improvisation) “Boustrophedon” uniquely emphasises his compositional capacity, and presents a music that opens some new windows. Each of the piece’s six “Furrows” (the title ‘Boustrophedon’ translates as ‘like an ox plowing’) features a combination of detailed written music for the players, specific performance instructions and ‘open’ areas. What does it sound like? The composer at one point spoke of locating a space “between Gil Evans and Luigi Nono”, but there is more to the story. “I wanted to use some of the big chords that Slonimsky talks about: all these very big all-interval structures.” Conventional tonality meanwhile is at a premium, sometimes referencing “East European folk music with a pedal tone and a variety of scales based on that tone.” Juxtaposing the complex and then archaic-sounding, Parker avoids “the middle ground of diatonic harmony,” with frequently electrifying results.
The album’s liner notes map out the central event in the work: The brief overture with ensemble and the foregrounded drums of Tani Tabbal and Paul Lytton leads swiftly to the first of the “Furrows”, in each of which a player meets a ‘transatlantic’ counterpart. “Furrow 1” is an encounter for John Rangecroft’s flute and the piano of Craig Taborn (which has a particularly important role to play as the work develops). “Furrow 2” is occupied by Phil Wachsmann and Nils Bultmann, engaged in quite beautiful violin-viola dialogues which spill over into “Furrow 3”, where Marcio Mattos (Brazilian-born string player long a British resident) and Anders Svanoe (American saxophonist with Norwegian roots) are featured, Anders’s solo lifted up by dense ensemble agitations. “Furrow 4” is for John Rangecroft’s clarinet and Corey Wilkes’s trumpet, and bassists Jaribu Shahid and Barry Guy compare dynamic meditations in “Furrow 5” - at first in isolation then against increasingly turbulent group playing. The emotionally-powerful “Furrow 6” features solos from first Evan Parker and then Roscoe Mitchell, tumultuously leading us toward a finale set up by massive chords and capped with rapid fire cadenzas. We hear, in succession, Jaribu Shahid, Neil Metcalfe, Anders Svanoe, Philipp Wachsmann, Craig Taborn, Marcio Mattos, Nils Bultmann, John Rangecroft, Corey Wilkes, Barry Guy, and Roscoe Mitchell. The atmospheric climates in which these episodes are developed through the Furrows and the Finale, and the richness and strangeness of the chamber ensemble textures that envelop them, are frequently as remarkable as the solos themselves.
Evan Parker, regarded by many critics as one of the most important saxophonists of the post-Coltrane era, was amongst the first musicians to record for ECM, appearing on “The Music Improvisation Company” in 1970, the fifth album released by the label. Over the years he has been featured on recordings with Kenny Wheeler, Gavin Bryars and the Globe Unity Orchestra and since the 1990s has been recording more frequently for ECM, two well-received trio recordings with Paul Bley and Barre Phillips (“Time Will Tell, “Sankt Gerold”) followed by the introduction of Parker’s ground-breaking Electro-Acoustic Ensemble which has thus far released four albums: “Toward The Margins”, “Drawn Inward”, “Memory/Vision” and “The Eleventh Hour”. (A fifth, recorded during the 2007 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, is in preparation).
The Transatlantic Art Ensemble, put together by Parker and Roscoe Mitchell in 2004, pooled personnel from the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble and Mitchell’s Note Factory. Bassist Barry Guy, violinist Phil Wachsmann and drummer Paul Lytton are members of the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble. Wachsmann/Lytton have recorded also in duo for ECM, on “Some Other Season”. Guy has recorded his compositions for the New Series on “Folio” and “Ceremony” and performed also with the Dowland Project (“In Darkness Let Me Dwell”, “Care-Charming Sleep”) and the Hilliard Ensemble (“A Hilliard Songbook”). Flutist Neil Metcalfe and clarinettist John Rangecroft were at different times members of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, the flagship band of European improvisation with whom Evan Parker recorded the now-legendary “Karyobin” album of 1968.
Of the players from the other side of the Atlantic, Roscoe Mitchell is of course a major figure in new jazz/new composition and the founder of the ever-resourceful Art Ensemble of Chicago, whose ECM recordings include “Nice Guys”, “Full Force”, “Urban Bushmen”, “The Third Decade” and “Tribute To Lester”. ECM has also issued “Nine To Get Ready” by Mitchell’s Note Factory. (A new Note Factory recording from 2007 is also in the pipeline). Trumpeter Corey Wilkes and bassist Jaribu Shahid are currently also members of the Art Ensemble. Shahid and drummer Tanni Tabbal have played with Mitchell in a variety of contexts for 30 years. Pianist Craig Taborn has recently been touring with David Torn and appears on his popular “Prezens” album on ECM. Saxophonist Anders Svanoe and violist Nils Bultmann have guested with the Note Factory. Bultmann is also known as a classical soloist and Svanoe as a jazz scholar, recently publishing a study of saxophonist Sonny Red.
International interest in the Transatlantic Art Ensemble, created with the release of “Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3” – an album-of-the-year in France’s Jazzman magazine - has led to demands for more live performances and possibilities for festival appearances are currently being examined. More details soon.
CD package includes session photography by Caroline Forbes and liner notes by Steve Lake.