... [the band] meltdown in this newly issued live recording from 1997.
John Eyles 2002
This trio, with bassist Barry Guy and percussionist Paul Lytton, has been one of Evan Parker's most consistently creative environments for the past two decades, responsible for such impressive and enduring releases as Atlanta (Impetus), At The Vortex (1996) (Emanem) and half of 50th Birthday Concert (Leo).
At a time when Parker is using his Psi label to re-release some of his 70s and 80s recordings originally issued on Incus, he has chosen to release this 1997 live recording of the trio for the first time. Whilst hoping that Psi will eventually re-issue long unavailable trio recordings such as Tracks or Hook, Drift & Shuffle from the Incus catalogue, it is a greater pleasure to have this new music.
This setting is the closest Parker gets to conventional playing (apart from in other peoples ensembles such as The Dedication Orchestra). At times this threesome superficially functions like a jazz trio, particularly when Parker plays tenor sax. His tenor is far more recognisably in the jazz tradition than his soprano; when Parker plays soprano sax, it is often far more like his unaccompanied solo playing - relentlessly energetic, allowing little room for interaction with bass and drums.
But on a track such as "Montreuil Motion", the opener here, his tenor spins long, varied solo lines, broken into recognisable phrases. Guy and Lytton adopt the role of a rhythm section, providing a complex and shifting rhythmic pulse. But there is no hierarchy as in many a jazz trio. Instead, the three instruments engage in a conversation of equals, with each able to steer the music in new and surprising directions.
In a remarkable group, Guy's bass deserves particular comment. It is the antithesis of conventional bass, contributing to the pulse but also acting as a solo instrument, worthy of attention throughout. By far the longest track here -"Three Legged Chicken (for Vernon)" is ample demonstration of all these strengths, a collective improvisation that is constantly evolving but is unwaveringly focussed and centred throughout its 34 minute duration.
Parker has high standards for Psi and is only releasing (or re-releasing) his best music on it. It is a measure of the quality of the music here that Parker was prepared to overlook a technical glitch (a breakdown in computer recording technology that leaves an unwanted gap between two tracks) in order to release it. It was a wise decision. This trio has released some great discs, but this is among their best.