The Association of Improvising Musicians (AIM) Toronto put on a series of special concerts, the Interface Series. The concert that I attended featured saxophonist Evan Parker. Over the course of the weekend, Parker would play for three nights. He would be participating with members of AIM in different musical settings.
Evan Parker is a master of saxophone improvisation and throughout the weekend he would be put to task, even challenged, in meetings with six different groups. The first group featured Parker with a group of brass instrumentalists. The second group electronics, percussion and saxophones. The night I was able to attend started out with strings, the room was packed, standing room only.
I caught Saturday night’s performance. Evan Parker with strings. In the first set, joining Mr. Parker were Matt Brubeck (cello), Parmela Attariwala (viola), David Prentice and Monica Westerholm (violin).
Tuning is the first order of business, someone plays an A, the musicians make minor adjustments, and someone else mentions they like that note. The musicians come to an agreement and start in with something that sounds similar to "Flight of the Bumblebees". Parker fluttering the valves of the soprano sax, the violins playing rapidly against the cello and viola, their playing consists of long drawn out chords with full sustain. The hint of a melody starts to develop, "Sleeping Bee" or maybe it’s just my imagination.
The strings take off in different directions, led by David Prentice, he is creating outside the box. Matt Brubeck is complimenting the sounds, adding tabla like pulses by tapping his cello in various manners, sometimes with the heel end of the bow, the stringed horsehair part or even with his fingers. The music progresses, the dynamics build, Evan Parker is completely engaged, and he emulates a stringed instrument. Hitting notes that resemble plucked strings, creating tones that are customarily reserved for the viola, these are dark, deep and mellow. Mr. Evans and Ms. Attariwala play off each other, they are building a strong dialogue. The violins are burning-building a fire wall of sound, all these sounds in tandem, they come together as one ending in a crescendo of power.
There are two more pieces performed and the musicians become more comfortable with each other. They relax, they communicate and they explore all that is possible in the context of new music, they create wonderful musical interludes.
The second set featured a quartet of saxophones, Kyle Benders, Richard Underhill and Evan Shaw joining Evan Parker for the last set. The saxophone group featured some amazing playing by all the members of the group. They performed two numbers, the first piece was chaotic, a wild competition, pitting the tenors of Parker and Benders against the altos of Underhill and Shaw. The focus was intense, the sounds extreme after about twenty minutes of this display of saxophone dexterity the focus shifts to an organized approach that featured a lead player and accompanists in support.
You would be hard pressed to find any better group of saxophonists in one place, each quite capable of playing whatever comes to mind or chart. They came together to create new music and to perform in spontaneity. There were moments when every possible emotion was displayed through the music. The music, at certain times sounded very organized, almost arranged. Not many in the room filled with musicians were bobbing their heads or tapping there feet. But there were a few; I was one of them, fascinated with the shifting time and the possibilities of where this new music could end up.