|One Final Note Review Free Zone Appleby continues to provide an important forum for free improvisers as a segment of the annual Appleby Jazz Festival under the curatorship of Evan Parker. This packed-to-capacity disc presents samplings of four separate sets from the 2004 conference, though it's unclear exactly how much music remains in the can. Each edited set consists of coupled duo and trio improvisations. Parker, along with Barry Guy, Paul Lytton, and Philipp Wachsmann serve as the talent pool on the trios. The duo meetings pivot on the presence of Joel Ryan, a veteran of Parker's various electro-acoustic ensembles, in tandem with each of the four other players. On the opening duo track, Wachsmann employs electronics to create a synthetic doppelganger self, one that mimics the acoustic machinations of his violin like a weirdly proportioned, fuzzily drawn twin. Ryan's computer processing ranges from minimalist to grandiose. The pair's opening duet has the aura of a Sun Ra chamber piece, sharp string textures treated with a quavering electronic veneer.
A fairly orthodox Parker/Guy/Lytton piece follows with much scurrying, plucking, and whistling used to convey a transcript of the trio's abstract leanings. The music crafted by the Parker, Lytton, and Wachsmann triangle feels less rote, with the soprano even tracing semblances of melody amidst the alkaline grit of drum and violin detritus. An inevitable swoop into circular breathing on the part of the saxophonist receives a germane answer in the icicle-like structures of scraped and struck cymbals and abrading arco violin. Later trio pieces by the other two possible combinations continue the chamber improv emphasis with periodic detours into more heated and agitated interactions. Such is the case on “Trio-3”, where Parker's soprano flurries across an arco edifice erected by the hummingbird bows of Guy and Wachsmann.
Ryan's duo encounter with Lytton offers some of the most unpredictable outcomes, the shoveling clatter of the latter appropriated and looped inward by the former to create weird Rorschach blots of shimmering static-charged percussion. His face-off with Parker is the longest at nearly 20 minutes, but the ground covered feels more like an extension of their studio collaborations collated on the earlier Or Air rather than a completely new direction. The subtle difference lies in the real-time responsiveness of Ryan to Parker and vice-versa. In concert, the saxophonist escapes the static role of pre-recorded source file. He is free to alter his interjections as an in-the-moment equal and the results yield far less repetition. Once again Ryan assumes the part of meticulous embellisher. He draws a bead on Parker's slippery multiphonics, absorbing them and reconfiguring them in patterns and shapes that echo the original, but are also singular in design.
This collection is quite distinct from the past two Free Zone aural scrapbooks, but it maintains a commensurate level of quality that makes it easy to recommend. While the cast remains a familiar one, the improvisations generated by the partnerships succeed in revealing fresh possibilities. Appleby 2005 is now over. Parker's guests this year included Paul Dunmall, Gerd Dudek, Paul Rogers, and Tony Levin. Odds are that an audio portion of that meeting will be hitting the shop shelves under the Psi imprint soon. Lengthy longevity and ample listenership are rewards this series certainly deserves.
EVAN PARKER soprano saxophone, BARRY GUY bass,
PAUL LYTTON percussion, PHILIPP WACHSMANN violin and electronics,
and JOEL RYAN live processing of pre-recorded samples and live input
- the four duos with Ryan, and the four trios without him.