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U.K. saxophonist Evan Parker leads the charge for DIY innovation that pushes all the avant-garde parameters

Wednesday, May 7 2003
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When one thinks of the European avant-garde, Evan Parker instantly comes to mind as the top ambassador of the music's out-of-this-world aspirations. Emerging during the whirlwind period of the late 1960s -- when overseas experimentalists blazed startling paths in free improv that had little to do with the jazz heritage of the United States -- the U.K. saxophonist contributed to the success of nearly all the seminal boundary-busting projects of the era. From his work with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble (with drummer John Stevens), the Music Improvisation Company (with guitarist Derek Bailey), and the Globe Unity Orchestra (pianist Alex von Schlippenbach's precedent-setting, pancultural collective) to the co-founding of the influential Incus record label, Parker has led the charge for do-it-yourself innovation that consciously pushes all the parameters.

With a technique that's second to none, including an extraordinary command of circular breathing, which allows for a heady series of notes to flow without interruption virtually ad infinitum, the saxophonist evokes cosmic-sounding multiphonics and resonances from his horn that need to be heard to be believed. Parker once remarked in an interview that his efforts are largely an attempt at "recognizing and controlling otherwise conditioned reflexes." In other words, he aims to vanquish his own clichés via extreme vigilance in each moment of the musicmaking -- a daunting task, to be sure, but one that yields ear-bending rewards.

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Sam Prestianni

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