Monday, August 21, 2017

Straight Horning: Evan Parker & Spontaneous Music Ensemble

Spontaneous Music Ensemble: Summer 1967 (Emanem)

I’ve been meaning to write about this album for a while now. Some months ago I wrote some notes but who knows where they ended up, so I’m starting from scratch today.
Pipeworks Dame Errant

Some of you may know I’m a fan of checking out early recordings by players who interest me. There are earlier recordings of Parker on Withdrawal, but on those recordings he has a pretty minor role in proceedings. Summer 1967 is a different story, as here he shares the front line with drummer John Stevens (drums/perc) and bassist Peter Kowald (on the two longer tracks). Even at this early stage it sounds like Evan Parker to me. The tone is not as full (the fidelity of the recording may not help) and there is not much in the way extended techniques but the playing still points to Evan Parker. I think it’s the series of short bursts and a staccato/jagged approach to his phrasing

The album comes from three separate sessions in August and September 1967:
- 5 improvised duets (4 on soprano and 1 tenor) that are, at times, quite minimal and in which space is well utilized.
- 2 longer improvised trio pieces (1 each on soprano and tenor) Clocking in at 14 and 11 minutes, I liked the pacing of these longer works - the phrases have space to breathe.
- 3 improvised duets (all soprano) the title “Echo Chamber Music” is apt and the echo on the recording adds a bit of fullness to the sax sound (but it’s still a bit over the top). These don’t seem as jagged as the first 5 duets (but maybe it’s just the echo mellowing things out a little).

Even as the density rises the music tends to stay on the quiet side (reflecting John Stevens’ ethos at the time), and I find this quiet intensity appealing. At times the music is quietly urgent and off the top of my head I can’t think of many similar examples that come to mind. In some ways there is bit of sameness throughout each of the three sessions, but I actually don’t mind it all that much.

This is Evan Parker's first major statement on record, and as such, if you're a fan of his work you'll want to pick this up.

For those interested in the pint…. it’s Dame Errant from Pipeworks, an English style IPA that had bit of a shake up on the way home but still tasted good.

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