“Can you think of a better saxophone player? I can’t. He is a giant.” Robert Wyatt
Evan Parker is one of the great saxophone players, pushing the instrument into uncharted waters since his emergence in the late 1960s. To mark his 70th year, Parker curates a week of performances at the Vortex and Cafe Oto, performing with some of the artists he’s worked so closely with over the years. Both venues are close to Parker’s heart, having built reputations as spaces where musicians can experiment and take risks, and for this week they present a very special programme of concerts on alternating nights.
Free improvised music has accounted for most of Parker’s activities over the last forty years, whether playing solo or in groups, but both jazz and art music composers have also deployed the arresting physicality of his sound as a contrasting and energising element. His saxophones have been heard inside jazz big bands led by Kenny Wheeler, Chris McGregor, Barry Guy, Stan Tracey and Charlie Watts and in the chamber music of Michael Nyman, Gavin Bryars, Frederic Rzewski and others.
Black Top, the duo of multi-instrumentalist Orphy Robinson and pianist Pat Thomas, was initiated in late 2011, as a shape-shifting unit, dedicated to exploring the intersection between live instruments and lo-fi technology. Cover artists on Jazzwise earlier this year, their first release on Babel has gained many top notch reviews, such as 5* in allaboutjazz.com. They reprise their successful collaboration with Evan Parker from early 2014.
Their virtuoso, freely improvised performances combine twisted loops, samples and dub-effects, which draw on their Afro-Caribbean roots, with a spontaneity and daring rooted in the free-jazz experiments of New York loft-scene innovators such as Sam Rivers. To date, live collaborators have included saxophonists Steve Williamson, Shabaka Hutchings and Jason Yarde, vocalist Cleveland Watkiss, flugel horn player Claude Deppa and trumpeter Byron Wallen and tonight, Evan Parker.
John Edwards is a true virtuoso whose staggering range of techniques and boundless musical imagination have redefined the possibility of the double bass and dramatically expanded its role, whether playing solo or with others. Perpetually in demand, he has played with Evan Parker, Sunny Murray, Derek Bailey, Joe McPhee, Lol Coxhill, Peter Brötzmann, Mulatu Astatke and many others.
Steve Noble is London’s leading drummer, a fearless and constantly inventive improviser whose super-precise, ultra-propulsive and hyper-detailed playing has galvanized encounters with Derek Bailey, Matthew Shipp, Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, Stephen O’Malley, Joe McPhee, Alex Ward, Rhodri Davies and many, many more.
In the early eighties, Noble played with the Nigerian master drummer Elkan Ogunde, Rip Rig and Panic, Brion Gysin and the Bow Gamelan Ensemble, before going on to work with the pianist Alex Maguire and with Derek Bailey (including Company Weeks 1987, 89 and 90). He was featured in the Bailey’s excellent TV series on Improvisation for Channel 4 based on his book ‘Improvisation; its nature and practise’. He has toured and performed throughout Europe, Africa and America and currently leads the groups N.E.W (with John Edwards and Alex Ward) and DECOY (with John Edwards and Alexander Hawkins).