Evan Parker: Synergetics-Phonomanie III

Evan Parker lifts a Buckminster Fuller term to describe the interaction of musicians from diverse cultural traditions in a freely improvised context. Thus we have the Tuvan diva Sainkho Namtchylak, the Sardinian shawm, launeddas, played by Carlo Mariani, Jin Hi Kim on the Korean komungo (cousin of the koto), and Thebe Lipere playing the African didjeridoo (imbumbu) and various percussion instruments. They join trombonist George Lewis, bassist Motoharu Yoshizawa, the leader, and Marco Vecchi and Walter Prati on electronics.

It would take a lot of room to do more than merely describe the two and a half hours of music here, which comes from two days of concerts. There i#s everything from the diatonic orientation of the launeddas through the cubist picking and plucking of the komungo and bass to Lewis and Parker’s growls and shouts. The far end of the horn work gets into the overtonal area of the singer and imbumbu and the overtones take us back to diatonic references. The electronics are often used to refract and amplify what’s being played by the instruments, so that it becomes impossible to know who’s doing what in the ensembles. On the other hand there is a great deal of space given to solo and duo statements. There is a wealth of extraordinarily beautiful music here.

The duo with Namtchylak is another concert recording and if anything the more difficult to approach. Namtchylak combines the overtonal techniques with vocal gymnastics that defy description but include percussive clucks and blood-curdling cries. Her technical ability is amazing, but I have to be #honest and admit that much of what she does is downright disturbing for me to listen to. The human voice, after all, evokes responses on a more immediate, visceral level than any instrument can. But my aim is not to blame the singer for my reaction-I remember it taking me a while to get next to Albert Ayler, and I think that Namtchylak is a very significant and possibly even a great artist that everyone should hear.

I haven’t said much about Parker’s own playing. He remains one of the most compelling saxophonists, whether on soprano or tenor, that can be heard anywhere. Even more impressive is his commitment to finding new ways to challenge himself-and us.