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Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble: Memory/Vision

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Evan Parker’s latest electro-acoustic effort has him moving even farther away from free jazz and ever closer to a noisy classical-ambient hybrid. In addition to his usual soprano sax, he’s credited here with playing “tapes and samples.” Indeed, his soprano doesn’t make an appearance until the album is half over. How you react to this music depends largely upon how sympathetic you are to post-Cage-ian European music; if you think George Crumb’s electric string quartet “Black Angels” is great, chances are you’ll like this. Philipp Wachsmann’s violin and Agusti Fernandez’s piano are the most easily recognizable sounds, though their lines are digitally manipulated and transformed by the group’s sound-processing component comprised of Lawrence Casserley, Joel Ryan, Walter Prati and Marco Vecchi. Also on hand are Parker’s usual mates drummer Paul Lytton and bassist Barry Guy; their contributions-and Parker’s-are likewise messed with by the computer geeks to interesting ends.

Although “Memory/Vision” is a composition, it serves mostly as a variably structured framework for improvisation. It works pretty well. Textures ebb and flow; slow and sparse morphs into fast and dense. The musicians are all very sensitive and reactive free improvisers, as are the sound-processing guys, for the most part. Personally, I would prefer that the electronic musicians generated their own sounds via synths or samples, instead of just tweaking the acoustically generated tones of Parker, et al. But that would entail an entirely different concept, so it’s probably an unfair expectation. I’ll probably always prefer Parker’s jazz-centered acoustic work-he is, after all The World’s Baddest Sopranist-but this stuff is plenty interesting on its own.