«Mon art de la composition consiste à choisir les bonnes personnes et à leur demander d’improviser». — Le son du grisli, France
… Seven presses a Messiaen-like vision into and through the present. — Musicworks, Canada
Recorded at the 30th Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, May 18, 2014.
CD (VICTO 127)
- Label: Victo
- VICTO 127 / 2015
- UCC 777405012722
- Total duration: 65:00
- 127 mm × 142 mm × 6 mm
- 60 g
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Sur la pochette de ce disque, lire cet aveu d’Evan Parker: «Mon art de la composition consiste à choisir les bonnes personnes et à leur demander d’improviser.» Au 30e Festival de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville, le 18 mai 2014, le saxophoniste donnait un concert en compagnie de Peter Evans (trompettes), Ned Rothenberg (clarinettes et shakuhachi), Okkyung Lee (violoncelle), Ikue Mori (électronique), Sam Pluta (électronique) et George Lewis (électronique et trombone). «Ceux-là sont les bonnes personnes», précisait-il.
C’est l’électronique qui se chargea d’abord d’arranger l’espace que l’ElectroAcoustic Septet aura tout loisir d’explorer: une forêt de sons brefs sous laquelle ont été creusé combien de galeries. Les musiciens s’y rencontreront, à deux, trois ou davantage, dans un jeu de poursuites ou au gré de conversations affolées. Ainsi aux notes hautes d’Evans et Lee, Rothenberg répondra ici par un motif grave et ramassé; ailleurs, aux imprécations de l’électronique (dont les effets ne se valent pas tous), les souffleurs opposeront un alliage autrement expressif…
Mais à force de frictions, le terrain s’affaisse parfois et les plafonds de la galerie menacent. Et quand les vents ne retrouvent pas le chemin de l’air libre (ici le soprano de Parker, là le trombone de Lewis), les secondes peuvent paraître longues, aussi longues qu’elles sont bien remplies.
Year by year Evan Parker’s electro-acoustic ensemble — a project he initiated more than two decades ago — seems to take on a more powerful place in his body of work. It is among improvised music’s irreplaceable groups — as ICP still is or as Albert Ayler’s trio once was. Parker’s ensemble has forever altered the way we hear music. Once documented exclusively by ECM — five groundbreaking discs from 1996 to 2007 — Parker’s psi label released Hasselt in 2010, and, now, Victo produces Seven, a live recording (and debut) of the ElectroAcoustic Septet at the 2014 Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville.
If the group’s configuration has shifted over the years, growing to 18 pieces at Lisbon’s Jazz em Agosto in 2010 — a performance that, for many, ranks among the high-water marks of early 21st century creative music — Seven readjusts things once again. On the acoustic side, Ned Rothenberg (clarinets, shakuhachi) and Peter Evans (trumpets) remain; Ikue Mori returns on electronics. Now Sam Pluta (electronics) is added, along with Okkyung Lee (cello), and George Lewis (trombone and electronics). Remarkably, it was back in 1980 that Parker and Lewis first worked together, on a series of European dates captured by Incus Records.
Apart from Parker himself, this is an American band — a lovely artifact from the Englishman’s recent New York residencies at the Stone. Here, in small-town Quebec, he reconstitutes the electro-acoustic project for the first time without bass and percussion (Paul Lytton had been ever present until now). Yet the group’s moorings remain: the mirroring, of acoustic instruments and their electronic counterparts; the intricate network of voices, where collective improvisation is tied to line and timbre, where a profound sense of each player’s sound (tone, attack, breath, etc.) echoes, refracts, and ignites another’s.
Still, Seven stands apart. It is by turns searing and savage, hypnotic and contemplative. It is a supremely realized set of music — two brave, meticulous, and wonderfully alive improvisations. The record demands repeated, and varied, listening: on headphones, or filling up the room. The disc brings different delights every time; the balance — the performance itself and Victo’s exquisite production — is ideal. You might spend time, say, zeroing in on Rothenberg’s role on “Seven-1.” His work outlines the spine of this 46-minute event, tagging its beginning, middle, and end — on shakuhachi, the Japanese bamboo flute, with these gorgeous, airy, poised declarations, or on bass clarinet, down low, boring out the bottom end. Parker’s entrance comes when you’re already acclimated to the date. Lee’s pizzicato lines meander, then these terrific sweeps of sound, an electronic cascade, measured, hushed, Evans’s color. In “Seven-2” the trumpeter’s role is more prominent: he jumps in and out of the ensemble in a series of wildly controlled acrobatics.
But the overarching spirit is always Evan Parker’s: in parceled spirals, the drama of circular breathing, waves (gyres?) turning and pushing and cycling, bird calls, long tones, fantastic effects that, together, give you the sense of seven souls breathing. That, to me, is the most extraordinary aspect of this disc: the importance of space, of something beyond simple notation. At its very highest peaks, Seven is absolute music of the rarest kind. Whether the instruments are blown, bowed, plucked, or processed, you feel the essence of these sounds — as you might register a wisp of wind, or the pulse of a human breath.
Just as international improvisers sometimes find a more welcoming atmosphere for their sound experiments in Canada than at home, so too have Canadian record labels become a vehicle to release notable free music sessions. Attesting to this openness, two of the most recent discs by British saxophone master Evan Parker are on Canadian imprints. But each arrived by a different route. One of the triumphs of 2014’s Festival International de Musique Actuelle de Victoriaville in Quebec, this performance of Seven by Parker’s ElectroAcoustic Septet (Victo 127) are available on Victo, FIMAV’s affiliated imprint. Consisting of one massive and one shorter instant composition, Seven literally delineates the electro-acoustic divide. Trumpeter Peter Evans, reedist Ned Rothenberg, cellist Okkyung Lee and Parker make up the acoustic side, while varied laptop processes are operated by Ikue Mori and Sam Pluta, with George Lewis switching between laptop and trombone, with his huffing brass tone making a particular impression during a contrapuntal faced-off with Parker’s soprano saxophone during Seven-2. At nearly 46 minutes, Seven-1 is the defining work, attaining several musical crests during its ghostly, meandering near time-suspension, allowing for full expression of instrumental virtuosity, dynamic flutters, flanges and processes from the laptoppists accompany, comment upon or challenge the acoustic instruments. Alternately wave forms loops and echoes cause the instrumentalists to forge their reposes. Plenty of sonic surprises arise during the sequences. Undefined processed-sounding bee-buzzing motifs for example are revealed as mouth and lip modulations from Evans’ piccolo trumpet or aviary trills from Rothenberg’s clarinet. In contrast the electronics’ crackles and static are often boosted into mellower affiliations that sound purely acoustic. Eventually both aspects meld into a climax of bubbly consistency with any background-foreground, electro or acoustic displays satisfactorily melded. More percussive Seven-2 has a climax involving fragmented electronics pulsating steadily as first Evans, then Rothenberg and finally Parker spill out timbres that confirm formalism as much as freedom.
It was Cecil Taylor who once said that the compositional process begins with the selection of the players. In an allusion to Taylor Evan Parker stated that his art of composition consisted in choosing the right people and asking them to improvise. He also meant that the resulting music arose from this sequence of decisions and that his art of composition consisted in choosing the right people. And with Ned Rothenberg (clarinets, shakuhachi), Peter Evans (trumpets), George Lewis (trombone, electronics), Okkyung Lee (cello), Ikue Mori (electronics) and Sam Pluta (electronics) he chose the perfect musicians for his ElectroAcoustic Septet, which was invited to the 2014 Victoriaville Festival.
In the field of electro-acoustic contributions to improvised music Evan Parker is a pioneer. At a very early stage he has included electronics and processing in his music, e.g. with his long time companion Paul Lytton on Collective Calls (Urban) (Two Microphones) (Incus, 1972). His interest in sound processing led to the foundation of the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble in 1992, from their first album Towards the Margins (ECM, 1997) up to Hasselt (Psi, 2012), when the ensemble was expanded to 14 musicians (at their latest concerts there were even 18).
For Seven Parker has reduced the band members for his project drastically, and he has chosen musicians mainly working in the US (often based in New York) with whom he has had a history. With Evans and Pluta he played in Rocket Science, he released a great trio CD with Lee and Evans, worked in a duo with Ned Rothenberg, and his cooperation with George Lewis is history (From Saxophone and Trombone, Incus, 1980). He has even joined Ikue Mori on Near Nadir.
However, even fans of Parker sometimes have difficulties with his electronic excursions because they think that the part of “real” instruments, its warmth, the organic flow, and the authentic sound is underrepresented. But then again there is a perfect balance between the acoustic instruments and sound processing (Parker doesn’t like the term “electronics”) in his electro-acoustic ensembles because the processors manipulate and treat pre-recorded and live material — it’s rather a transformation of sound.
The music on Seven sounds as if you were in the middle of a huge and crowded insectarium, with bees, dragonflies, ants, bumblebees, spiders, butterflies and mosquitoes, all grotesquely amplified. The result is a whirlwind of fizzling, gabbling and buzzing — it’s a strange drone. There are ostinato parts, small solos are interspersed, even far eastern elements are integrated (Rothenberg’s shakuhachi), and Parker is able to use his trademark, circular breathing, in a very effective and natural way, so that it becomes a perfect part of the interaction, the density of sound, and the overall consistency.
Seven is beautiful noise par excellence, a marvelous piece of art, a successful communication, something you can get lost in endlessly. Just splendid.
Il y a 25 ans que le saxophoniste britannique Evan Parker fondait son ensemble électroacoustique. Plusieurs mutations plus tard, et près de 20 ans après un premier passage au FIMAV, l’ensemble était de retour pour donner l’excellent concert reproduit ici. C’est l’un des meilleurs exemples d’intégration entre instruments acoustiques et électroniques que j’ai entendu depuis longtemps. La trompette de Peter Evans, le violoncelle d’Okkyung Lee, les clarinettes de Ned Rothenberg et le soprano de Parker se mêlent aux électroniques d’Ikue Mori, de Sam Pluta et de George Lewis (aussi au trombone, bien sûr) avec un naturel mystifiant pour un résultat — improvisé — qui caresse le tympan avec l’efficacité d’un massage vulcain. Un bijou de plus au catalogue Victo.