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Evan Parker/Richard Nunns: Rangirua

The direct link between experimental, freely improvisational instincts and certain ritualistic world-music traditions is an obvious one, yet not often acknowledged. In the rush to embrace the idea of a cutting edge, and of making an utterly contemporary statement, the rhetoric of the avant-garde–and certainly its skeptics–tends to deny its primal, ancient, sound-making roots. In a way, atonal, unstructured playing is the most natural thing in the world–or at least the essential world, before codes of civility exacted their toll.

Without making too staunch a point of it, that is the backdrop of Rangirua, the subtle, yet remarkable, collaboration between legendary improviser Evan Parker and Richard Nunns, a New Zealander musician and passionate Moari musicologist. Parker’s work is well known, and he brings an expected, highly sensitive range of sonic detail and gesture to soprano and tenor saxophones. But Parker often defers to Nunns, who uses a series of instruments from Taonga Puoro (traditional Maori musical instruments). The collection of wind and percussion instruments belongs to an esoteric musical world almost obliterated by culture-bashing missionaries to the island.

Together, with European instruments dating back a mere hundred years yearning to commune with ancient, non-Western musical tools, they embark on a pursuit of pure texture and hypnotic, preliterate musical patterns and an elusive sense of cultural depth. And they get somewhere meditative and real.

Originally Published