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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Evan Parker, Okkyung Lee, Peter Evans – The Bleeding Edge (Psi, 2011) *****

By Daniel Sorrells

The Psi website hints at the many things The Bleeding Edge condenses into the intimate trio format: geographical distance, nationality, disparate families of instruments, different generations of improvisers. The music doesn’t sound so much like an amalgamation of all these things as it does a sheer transcendence of them. It’s a display of musical minds and talents stripped of contextual baggage. It is challenging, sophisticated music that will reward anyone who opens themselves to it.

It’s uncommon to find a recording in which the individual strengths of each player are so constantly apparent, yet also so difficult to unravel from one another. The trio weaves an ornate musical fabric, with timbres and ideas meshing so frequently that it’s difficult to follow a single musician’s contribution for more than a few seconds. The Bleeding Edge features six of these trio cuts, as well as a handful of duos: two each of Parker/Lee and Parker/Evans, and one with Evans and Lee.  It’s hard not to gush about Evan Parker; his sheer genius and mastery is evident in almost every captured performance. Increasingly, the same can be said of trumpeter Evans, a rare talent whose technique and musicality seems inexhaustible. Both have utterly divorced their instruments from the constraints of the Western tonal system. But the real delight here is cellist Okkyung Lee, who is too often overshadowed by the distinguished musical company she keeps. She’s a thoughtful, responsive player with a gorgeous tone that never succumbs to the shrill, needly sound of some improvising cellists. Her duets with Parker are among the many highlights here. The two create a remarkable sympathetic dialogue, as opposed to Evans’s more sporty, duel-like spars with Parker.

The Bleeding Edge is an album to sit with. It’s in turns beautiful, confounding, intimidating, and awe-inspiring. The sound is wonderfully captured, the soft resonance of the recording space only further enhancing the complex stew of harmonics generated by the trio. Though the big names and reputations are certainly the initial draw, the results are pure and spontaneous music, beyond any single participant. At the risk of sounding affected or trite, it’s a strong showing of the humanitarian appeal of improvising: everyone has the ability to make profound contributions to the conversation, baggage be damned.

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© stef


Anonymous said...

Dear Daniel,
when I saw the trio in Schorndorf/Germany last November I was really flashed by the concert. So I bought the then brandnew CD right away and - frankly speaking - I think it cannot fully compete with their live performance. But nevertheless it is a nice piece of work, although I don't quite agree with the five star ranking.

Dan said...

Fair enough--but again, you have the benefit of a great live performance that I do not!