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Date 30 June 2005 at 20.00 Venue Vancouver East Cultural Centre

Reviewer Kulpreet Sasan

 

EVAN PARKER FREE ZONE

 


Vancouver International Jazz Festival 2005
The first few moments of this show were almost scary, and I wondered what Iíd gotten myself into. Evan Parkerís Free Zone is very much about the conceptual side of jazz, and after the Bill Frisell concert I was still nearly exhausted by challenge.

The first configuration was troubling. What seemed to be a toy keyboard, a soprano sax, and a trombone were on stage at the same time, trying to discover magic without an attempt at pre-conceived structure. The musicians looked and perhaps had even found something, but unfortunately it wasnít worth holding onto.

The trombone refused to play melody lines or lay down the bass pattern. Instead, the musician used it to produce resonant signatures, hums, and whispers, sounds that seemed to be creating a rhythm and that seemed slightly out of reach. Whether the other players responded to this is an open question.

It all just seemed like a jumble, but perhaps for a moment there was a functioning harmony that soon faded. The configuration kept it short and ended with sufficient audience patience left over for a truly positive response. The musicians had laid down the ideas of what would come: a challenge at the extremes and a search for improvisational unity.

The next configuration was considerably more rewarding. A bass sax, cello, and double bass were on stage and began in chaos again, but this time order seemed to emerge -- at least momentarily. All of sudden the audience was into it: there was one of those sublime moments of beauty as the musicians came together despite their attempts to stay apart.

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Where the first configuration introduced self-indulgent pitfalls, this one paid out dividends. From the opening chaos something supremely beautiful and rewarding and fragile emerged. An aesthetic had been recreated for a few moments, and a new world opened, and, finally, we felt that this is what jazz is meant to be.

Evan Parker
Evan Parker
After the first experience of the sublime, patterns emerged transfixed in a very particular moment. Had the players suddenly become better? Or did the aesthetic change to permit a glimpse of beauty in the chaos or the chaos of beauty. But there it was, a jumble in which meaning was found: the tones fought, emerged, and blended. Coherent textures, rhythms and near harmonies appeared.

Iíve perhaps overstated the importance of chaos at this event. There were rules at work for the players involved. Less was more, and the musicians found an area of the scale that was not being overplayed. One had the sense of hanging back, that speech should be withheld unless there was something to say, and that one should be free to listen, listen, listen. The ideas were not stated but understood.

Bill Parkerís Free Zone fought against the rules all night and succumbed, especially at the showís zenith, when fourteen players were going at it at once. The sound was still original and contradictory, but not muddy. It remained distinct. This was a show to savour and ponder, the music tending to push one to reverie and meditation. Cool jazz, you might say.

© 2005 Kulpreet Sasan


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