Evan Parker

"If you've ever been tempted by free improvisation, Parker is your gateway drug." - Stewart Lee 

Evan Parker has been a consistently innovative presence in British free music since the 1960s. Parker played with John Stevens in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, experimenting with new kinds of group improvisation and held a long-standing partnership with guitarist Derek Bailey. The two formed the Music Improvisation Company and later Incus Records. He also has tight associations with European free improvisations - playing on Peter Brötzmann's legendary 'Machine Gun' session (1968), with Alexander Von Schlippenbach and Paul Lovens (A trio that continues to this day), Globe Unity Orchestra, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, and Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO). 

Though he has worked extensively in both large and small ensembles, Parker is perhaps best known for his solo soprano saxophone music, a singular body of work that in recent years has centred around his continuing exploration of techniques such as circular breathing, split tonguing, overblowing, multiphonics and cross-pattern fingering. These are technical devices, yet Parker's use of them is, he says, less analytical than intuitive; he has likened performing his solo work to entering a kind of trance-state. The resulting music is certainly hypnotic, an uninterrupted flow of snaky, densely-textured sound that Parker has described as "the illusion of polyphony". Many listeners have indeed found it hard to credit that one man can create such intricate, complex music in real time. 

Featured releases

"Found in the archives of FMP!
 The very first – never released – recordings of the Schlippenbach Trio." "Pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach along with Evan Parker on tenor and soprano saxophone and Paul Lovens on drums are one of the longest lasting and most well respected groups in free jazz improvisation. Apparently it all began here on April 2, 1972 during the Workshop Freie Musik at the Acadamy of the Arts, Berlin. It hardly sounds like a first recording, because they come out of the gate with almost telepathic unity on "Deals" which is a continuous collective improvisation lasting over thirty eight minutes. The musicians show an amazing degree of stamina considering that the music is played with a very exciting degree of high energy. While each of these musicians were well on their way to developing their own unique original sounds, Schlippenbach displays a fascinating degree of classical technique filtered through the funhouse fractals of Thelonious Monk's music and Evan Parker's love of John Coltrane is evident. A comparison for Paul Lovens escapes me, but perhaps the fast fleet form of Andrew Cryille or Sunny Murray would be apt. "Deals" is a wonderful roller coaster, most exciting for me when they are barreling ahead full blast with Parker's caustic tone leading the charge over percussive piano and drums. There is quite a bit of dynamism at play as well, the musicians throttle through different speeds and dissolve into solos and duos as the joyride plows onward. Far from exhausted, there are three more shorter improvisations: "Village", "With Forks and Hopes" and then appropriately "Then, Silence." These shorter tracks point to a sharper juxtaposition than the lengthy leading track and show that the group has a wide range and diverse manner of approaches at their command. This was a very enjoyable album, quite exiting in the rough and tumble way that I enjoy, since I often lose my way listening to very quiet and abstract music. This is a must for fans of European free improvisation and is quite interesting in that it shows where the heralded trio got its start." (Music and More) --- Alexander von Schlippenbach / piano 
Evan Parker / tenor and soprano saxophone Paul Lovens / drums --- Recorded by an unknown engineer april 2nd 1972 during the Workshop Freie Musik at the Acadamy of the Arts, Berlin.
All music by Parker/Von Schlippenbach/Lovens
Mastering by Olaf Rupp & Martin Siewert. Produced by Jost Gebers. Cover by Lasse Marhaug. Photos Dagmar Gebers

Schlippenbach Trio – First Recordings

First vinyl re-issue of Evan Parker’s duo with George Lewis. Transferred from the original masters, we discovered that the original Incus LP was cut at the wrong speed - and so, we present the first vinyl issue of the correct masters, or ‘mastas’ as Adam Skeaping, legendary engineer who is also responsible for Six of One and Compatibles, fondly calls them.  Skeaping, always working with the latest in recording technology for the time, has a knack for gaining access to remarkable spaces. Good spaces that were cheap because no one else had discovered them. The Art Workers Guild is a Georgian Hall in Bloomsbury, London, with lofty ceilings and hard wooden floors. It’s the perfect room to exercise an instrument to its full length, to ‘run the full length of the staircase’ in Parker's words. Two bells to ring off the floor and remain in dextrous, airy resonance. Recorded at 30ips on enormous reels, the recording captures all the fine filigree detail so celebrated on Parker’s later ‘Six of One’, though here we are treated to tenor as well as soprano, plus, of course, George Lewis’ trombone. Parker and Lewis first met at Moers festival, Lewis having just played excerpts of Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’ with Anthony Braxton. Living in Paris, it wasn’t so hard for a young Parker to invite him for a session on his new imprint, Incus. Though having been part of the AACM, toured with Count Basie and made records for Black Saint, this would be Lewis’ first foray into British improv, excited by the idea the Bailey and Parker were attempting to open up the notion of improvisation to include “the freshness of the immediate encounter”.  Lewis had not long recorded his solo LP, which mixes lively hints of Ellington and tender lyricism with total experimentation in three part overdubbed trombone. From Saxophone to Trombone veers towards his wilder end of technicality, and features some of Lewis’ rarer, starker improv - all avant garde burbles and bubbles, breath control and scalar flights. It’s a recording of two young masters, documented beautifully, and released for the first time on vinyl at its intended speed.  

Evan Parker and George Lewis – From Saxophone and Trombone

LP reissue of Collective Calls, the first duo LP from Evan Parker and percussionist Paul Lytton. Mythically alluded to as ‘An Improvised Urban Psychodrama In Eight Parts”, Collective Calls utilises electronics, pre-records and homemade instruments to wryly in/act self investigation. Having just recorded the cliff jumping Music Improvisation Company with Derek Bailey, Christine Jeffrey, Hugh Davies and Jamie Muir, Parker was at the point where [he] was thinking, ‘what’s the next thing?’ On Collective Calls, only the 5th release to appear on the newly minted Incus label, percussionist Paul Lytton arrives with an arsenal of sound making sources to push Parker into ever new territory. Recorded in the loft of The Standard Essenco Co on Southwark Street by Bob Woolford (Topography of the Lungs, AMM The Crypt), Collective Calls has more in common with noise or music concrete than with jazz; sitting comfortably alongside Italian messrs Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza or the husband-wife duo of Anima Sound. According to Martin Davidson, it was a Folkways record called Sounds of the Junkyard that Lytton was obsessed with around the time of this release - its track titles like “Steel Saw Cutting Channel Iron in Two Places” working to give you a good idea of the atmosphere of Collective Calls. Paul Lytton had encountered the use of electronics in music in 1968 when he was invited to play drums on the recording of An Electric Storm by White Noise (along with David Vorhaus, Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson). He had seen Hugh Davies using contact mics in the Music Improvisation Company, and soon set about assembling a Dexion frame akin to drummer John Stevens’, except that his own was armed with several single-coil electric guitar pickups, long wires and strings with connected foot-pedals to modulate pitch. Influenced as much by Stockhausen, Cage and David Tudor as he was by Max Roach and Milford Graves, Lytton’s percussion is abstract, expressionist and at times totally mutant. Sometimes rolling extremely fast, then screeching almost backwards over feedback, Lytton gives Parker room to play some of his weirdest work. Parker is listed as performing both saxophones, his own homemade contraptions, and cassette recorder - regularly thickening the already murky brew by playing back previous recordings of the duo. Imagining their set up in a 70s loft, it’s an assemblage more akin to what today's free ears might see at a Sholto Dobie show, spread out on the floor of the Hundred Years Gallery, the shadow of Penultimate Press lurking in a corner. It’s a testament to Parker’s shape shifting sound - the ever present link to birdsong being at its most warped here - terrifically free and unfussy, wild and loose from any of the dogma that might come in later Brit-prov years.

Evan Parker and Paul Lytton – Collective Calls (Urban) (Two Microphones)

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