An homage of sorts ... in November 1961, John Coltrane played at the Granada Theatre in Walthamstow, North East London, on A Jazz at the Philharmonic tour. A young Evan Parker was in the audience that night, and the event obviously left an indelible impression. 55 years later, Parker returned to the scene of the 'crime' (a cinema located at 186 Hoe Street E17) with guitarist John Russell and bassist John Edwards and commenced on a recording inspired by the memory.
And how could this show not have impressed? It was after all John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, McCoy Tuner, Reggie Workman, and Elvin Jones belting out the now classics 'My Favorite Things', 'Naima', 'Impressions' ...
However, what Parker and company do in the same physical space inhabits a much different musical one. This is certainly not a note-for-note remake, rather it's a deep dive into the musical vocabulary that grew from the musical experimentations that took hold in London in the mid-1960s with groups like Spontaneous Music Ensemble. A direct link, of course, Parker, whose melodic bursts and expressive inflections guide this music. Russell, on acoustic guitar, channels the influence of Derek Bailey in his use of jarring chord tones and rhythmically abstract slashing. Edwards' contribution on bass is endlessly fascinating in how he connects everyone at key moments with a well placed pluck or bowed passage, propelling the songs in unexpected ways.
This is a rich treat. For example, on just one track, like 'Mirth', there is so much to unpack that it really can serve as an abstract for the whole recording. The syncopated phrases from Russell's guitar feels natural but there is no easily discernible pattern, Edwards' bass work provides depth and texture that thrusts the group forward with no obvious pulse. Most of all what you feel is the dedication to the musical whole emanating from Parker's saxophone. From each squiggle of sound to rapid runs through scales and other elliptical patterns, it is utterly mesmerizing.
Walthamstow Moon ('61 revisited') is available from Byrd Out records, on vinyl. It releases on April 15(ish) and is a limited 300 copy edition ... so better pick it up as soon as you can!