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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Evan Parker's Transatlantic Art Ensemble - Boustrophedon (ECM, 2008)

The Transatlantic Art Ensemble is an orchestra created by Roscoe Mitchell and Evan Parker. Its first production was released on ECM as Roscoe Mitchell's "Composition/Improvisation N° 1, 2 & 3". I listened to it several times and put it away, exhausted and disappointed. Now, the ensemble has released its companion CD, written and conducted by Evan Parker, called "Boustrophedon". The list of musicians is impressive : Evan Parker on soprano saxophone, Roscoe Mitchell on alto and soprano saxophone, Anders Svanoe on alto saxophone, John Rangecroft on clarinet, Neil Metcalfe on flute, Corey Wilkes on trumpet and flugelhorn, Nils Bultmann on viola, Philipp Wachsmann on violin, Marcio Mattos on cello, Craig Taborn on piano, Jaribu Shahid and Barry Guy on double-bass, Tani Tabbal and Paul Lytton on drums and percussion. This kind of release forces one to think about the nature of music and the nature of jazz. On the one hand, you can admire the fact that musicians keep looking for new ways to express themselves, with the possibility that you, me, as listeners will be able to enrich our aesthetic and emotional experience in the process. In the worst case, you're in for a bad trip and a purse a little lighter. On the other hand, the most burning questions I had when listening to this CD were: "What pretence or misplaced ambition drives wonderful improvisers in this direction?", or differently "Why do jazz musicians - or rock musicians - think that they can only be considered serious musicians once they've tried to move into classical territory, even modern classical music?", or "Why would you sacrifice the self-discovered gem of spontaneity, free form and emotional expressiveness on the altar of Art with a big A as described and defined by some high-brow intellectual critics?", or "Why would a musician with so much experience in the egoless interplay of jazz, be willing to rip the genre's heart out, to strip it from its soul, just in order to create some weird concoction of sounds which all together shout in unison : do you hear me, have you heard me, see what I can?" or "Why does a musician whose main aim has always been the unadultered joy of pure sound, light and free, indulge himself in a banquet too rich and too heavy ...?".

The only good thing about this album, is that it made me reflect on these things...

The perfect antidote is to listen to some of Parker's solo, duo or trio recordings.


CharlesT said...

I like a lot of the music you like, and I also like this. I go to see Evan Parker at the Vortex in Dalston each month, usually with John Edwards and Tony Marsh - it's my favourite live music. But I like his larger groups too. Have you heard his octet record, Crossing The River? It's halfway between the trio and the large group, in several ways. You might find it helpful as a way in.

Manuel Francisco said...

perhaps you should consider the simplest of explanations: that they enjoy what they do (as many of us do..)