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Monday, October 21, 2019

Evan Parker & Kinetics - Chiasm (Clean Feed, 2019) *****

By Stuart Broomer

“Chiasm,” from the Greek letter chi, our X, literally a “cross,” has numerous applications: it can refer to literary patterns built up of two different grammatical structures, e.g., ABBA, a device employed in Hebrew poetry and present in the Bible; also the place in the brain where the optic nerves cross; further, a crossing of tendons. Chiasm may have numerous significances here. It’s the intersection of two musical units: saxophonist Evan Parker and the younger Danish trio, Kinetics, consisting of pianist Jacob Anderskov, bassist Adam Pultz Melbye, and drummer Anders Vestergaard. The CD consists of four tracks drawn from two performances presented in that ABBA pattern: London, Part 1; Copenhagen, Part 1; Copenhagen Part II; London, Part II.

One might go further, into the multiply chiasmic structures of Parker’s music and the ways in which they arise here. Parker’s art and innovations have proceeded on two axes, one roughly horizontal, one (yes, roughly) vertical. The horizontal is linear, developmental, melodic and is typified to some degree by the tenor saxophone and his work in groups like Schlippenbach Trio; the vertical is simultaneous, multiphonic and characterized by his solo soprano performances and work with his Electro-Acoustic Ensemble and various electronic musicians (the recent Crepuscule in Nickelsdorf by Parker and Matthew Wright’s Trance Map + [Intakt] is a fine example).

The two patterns are always active to some degree (we act in time, time our opportunity and cross) but they emerge here in sometimes fascinating juxtapositions. “London Part I”, at over 18-minutes almost half of the 38-minute CD, begins with a few near-electronic sounding arco bass tones, then some looming bass notes in the piano’s lowest register, then the quartet is off, in classic free jazz mode, with Parker’s characteristic compound sound, somehow melding the woolly gruffness of Coleman Hawkins and the metallic glow of John Coltrane, his line a brilliant, expressive, pushing-ahead of unchained-if-not-unhinged melody, his partners assembling their own momentum, the current liberated point of the tenor-with-piano-bass-drums in a continuum that might be traced from Hawkins and Lester Young through Dexter Gordon, its most abstract (Warne Marsh) and visceral (Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis) forms, to Rollins and Coltrane (say with Monk) and then say Joe Henderson and Sam Rivers (the last two ideally with Andrew Hill at the piano). In the sonata curve that is, however, common to so much free jazz form, the ballad comes as an insert in the middle of a piece, and, chiasm within chiasm, Parker shifts from the dominant horizontal axis to his vertical, the ironic “timelessness” of circular breathing and fluting cyclical harmonies, before the trio takes it out with some finely turgid rhythmic emphasis in which bass and piano seem to drag themselves insistently forward while everything they do seems also to be dragging them back.

It’s at this point that the second form of the chiasm begins to appear with “Copenhagen Part I,” tenor and piano rustling in the firmament, the lines moving steadily upward with the increasingly active tenor and piano with active bass and energizing, insistent drums joining in until they find repose on a sustained note. “Copenhagen Part II” centres the tenor’s circularity, the circular breathing and the cycling patterns of the increasingly interlocking line, beneath them a rising cloud of dense bass register piano that will rise with the pattern. In the concluding “London Part II,” the music begins with a strong solo tenor moment; once joined by the band, Parker alternates the two dominant patterns, the reaching line and the circular pattern, each growing increasing in power and intensity until it concludes, things withdrawing into luminous piano tones and sparkling metallic percussion.

These movements, among two essential approaches, suffer in any verbal description, a reductive blow-by-blow making all punches equal, some just exaggerated; in practice, the segments vary in any number of ways, particularly in dynamics and kinds of interaction. Kinetics is highly responsive, often inspiring, creating a distinct group music with Parker in the process, while the editing and sequencing create another structural order, the chiasm creating a further dialogue among parts and processes.


Nick Metzger said...

I love the two axes description of Parker's playing, fantastic review of a great album.