|Blistering fast sax tootling from Parker and raindrop-falling piano from Tilbury are contrasted against lower register clumps of reverberation and flaky, polyphonic seagull impersonations. It’s a glorious, immersive experience. The Wire (UK)
It would verge upon the unforgivable if you, the reader, were to admit that you knew nothing of the two artists who make music together on this CD. Where have you been? I have been tempted to begin the CD notes in this manner because of my sadness and incredulity that such consummate masters of their chosen instruments and in this chosen medium of creative engagement - improvisation - are not more widely heard, perceived, understood and valued.
John Tilbury, now in his early sixties, and Evan Parker, in his mid-fifties, are flourishing as active artists. However, they work in a world that has been deceived into thinking that the media-driven tastes created by the music industry are what constitutes the contemporary serious but ‘popular culture.’ Bruce Springsteen and Madonna are, for examples, touted as cultural icons whose work should be taken seriously. But of course all the virtues claimed by some broadsheet critics, many of whom cut their writing teeth in the pop music press before conning their way into our so-called (but now diminished) serious cultural discourse, offer us only a reflection of product that serves the ideology and the bank balances of what John Tilbury himself would call ‘monopoly capitalism.’ Funny to see and hear this term these days. But it is long overdue for an outing. The deceitful mystique of ‘end of history’theories and the ‘no otherwayism’ of the Reagan/Thatcherite impoverishing legacy has to be countered. And, indeed it is countered by numerous people in their everyday lives and choices. The music herein is one such heroic example.
Artists like Evan Parker and John Tilbury have been countering the kind of idiocy I have referred to above for a long time. Not in terms of rhetoric - we are all, I am sure, sick to death of meaningless critiques and empty promises, especially those characteristic of pop and comic relief gestures. There is nothing empty in the music that these two artists display with consummate confidence and almost devastating ease - even though I am (if only partly ) aware of the effort that has preceded such demonstrations of artistry by way of diligent practice and thought. The product of this meeting of minds and spirit revealed, if only momentarily on this CD, is the product of endeavour and commitment to deep felt views, positive in regard to mankind in general and how people should relate to each other.
These musicians have chosen to eschew the given media of jazz, from whence Evan Parker received much of his initial inspiration, and the classical world from which John Tilbury received his early and formative training, in order to become autonomous human beings who can engage creatively and practically - not only with the world of sound but with the world of philosophy, and thence reflect upon a civil society. Why make art if not wanting to indicate other worlds and to transcend this one?
Music may not be considered as a life-saving agency, but it can put life into some meaningful perspective for so many people. Its apparent objectivelessness is deceptive. It is another language which escapes the inexactitudes and the wriggling distortions and delusions of the word. I do not hear John and Evan talking politics on this CD, but I do hear the way each applies their critique and their suggestions within this dialogue. Each speaks and lets the other speak. Each I know was suitably (and charmingly) nervous of the intercourse. Each respectfully feared the encounter and wanted not - as in some competitive bust up that often characterises instrumental struggles, in say, tenor saxophone battles - to impose their will upon the other. However, each in the process of an uncompromising engagement, wanted to find out more about the other. And, as importantly, wanted to find out more about themselves. More importantly still, to review, propose and test what is possible in wider human discourses.
Whilst I may be able to stake a claim as the midwife to this long overdue and most obviously fruitful of musical collaborations, I cannot claim to have thought of this recording project. Evan and John have all too rarely performed in each other’s company. When it has happened it has been mostly by way of Evan’s occasional guest appearances with AMM. But in that context there are of course other matters and other musicians to consider. The distinction of having the idea to create these duets goes to a deep listener to this kind of music and a supporter of Matchless Recordings who sidled up to me one day at a concert and casually remarked that perhaps a duet of Evan Parker and John Tilbury on our label would be a good idea. I nodded, not with any great conviction but the more I thought about it the more obvious such a musical match appeared. I hope this is a good example of a recording label responding to the listeners.
The imagining was the hard part, because thereafter these two artists lent their minds and wills to the project at hand. My own illness at the time meant that I couldn’t even attend the studio session. But with the least amount of fuss the CD was produced in good time. This alone was enough to bring tears of joy to any record producer who as a breed are inherently nervous about what musicians might or might not do when they are let loose in the studio. Nothing feels more like writing an open cheque! But I need not have feared. They are both men of personal and musical integrity. The work at hand being the only objective to be realised. My experience of them is that despite their obvious talents they each have so little in them in the way of guile and self-aggrandisement and so much by way of generosity, which I think is amply revealed in this recording. It is a pleasure and an honour to be able to call them my friends.