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Evan Parker, Mat Maneri, Lucian Ban (19 October) – REVIEW FROM FINANCIAL TIMES

Evan Parker, Mat Maneri and Lucian Ban in London — scrapes, scampers and ululations

The trio performed an evening of through-improvised music at the Vortex Jazz Club
(By Mike Hobart)

Each month British saxophonist Evan Parker hosts an evening of through-improvised music at the Vortex Jazz Club. This performance, also part of a short European tour, reunited Parker with the long-established duo of American viola player Mat Maneri and Romanian-born pianist Lucian Ban. Parker’s guests had just completed a South American tour, but this was the trio’s first meeting since recording the engaging set of themed improvisations collected on the album Sounding Tears in New York in 2014. The evening began with a gentle scrape of viola, a flutter of soprano sax and a toddler in the audience saying “Papa” (at first I thought it was a sample). The delicate interplay continued when Ban entered with a scattering of notes. As the piece progressed, Parker delivered microtonal variations of a single note over Maneri’s viola drone, and Ban’s solemn piano firmed into a steady, somewhat ominous walk. Fast scampers passed from sax to viola and spiralled into the upper register, then Parker launched into an extended, continuous ululation, his first of the night. By the time the piece ended with sax and viola skirling over the thump of Ban’s deadened piano strings, solo piano had arced from sparse rumination to full-on rumble, the trio’s mournful textures hovering with intent. The second improvisation, led by Ban’s marching single-note piano, evolved through ragged stride to sax and viola skitters, delivered pure melodies and ended on a fading viola moan. As on the album, the music was focused and imbued with an intense sense of space, but the centre of gravity had shifted. The recording merged Parker’s spontaneous aesthetic with established routines. Here the saxophonist held sway. As Ban said, introducing the second set: “Playing without a net, it’s not easy.” Not that any awkwardness was on display. The second half continued with focus intact. The opening improvisation began with a plangent viola and piano duet, and ended with the distinctive inflections of an east European mode. The second started with a quiet flutter of Parker’s soprano sax and finished with a two-note piano dirge and hints of the blues. Both pieces featured Parker’s extraordinary ululations, the first with sax, piano and viola acting as one, the second with Parker unaccompanied, and revealing the core phrase within. The encore, a dense swirl of overlapping scuttles, roared to a climax and stopped dead. ★★★★☆

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