October 2008

Evan Parker Transatlantic Art Ensemble
ECM Records

Nearly all of the 250-plus albums on which Evan Parker has appeared could be considered unusual or unique in one regard or another, but this disc has a particular reason for such a description: The leader’s soprano saxophone isn’t heard clearly as a solo instrument until the disc’s penultimate track. Boustrophedon presents Parker the composer more than it does Parker the iconoclastic improviser. The Transatlantic Ensemble was heard on Roscoe Mitchell’s Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3, which ECM released last year. The same 14-piece group recorded this piece, which translates to “like an ox plowing.”

In keeping with that theme, the work is divided into six “Furrows,” as well as an Overture and Finale; at times the music has the turgid feeling of an ox pulling a plow through the muck and mire. Each section pairs an American soloist with a European-based counterpart, hence the “Transatlantic” name. Combinations include Neil Metcalfe’s and Craig Taborn’s tranquil flute and piano pairing, bassists Barry Guy and Jaribu Shahid locking of horns and Parker and Mitchell’s separate soprano solos. The “Finale” track features 11 of the players offering quick statements between dissonant and, finally, loud chords. Residing somewhere between chamber music and improvised structures, Boustrophedon offers a different view of Parker’s immense talent.

Originally published in October 2008
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