Entertainment: It Will Be All White Noise on the Night; Saxophonist Evan Parker Talks to Martin Longley about Improvisation and Electronics

Article excerpt

Saxophonist Evan Parker was a pivotal figure during the first improvisation jazz experiment of the late 60s. Over three decades, he has refined a totally unique approach to the soprano and tenor horns, remaining an important presence on the world's new m usic stages.

Working with Derek Bailey's Company and the spontaneous Music Ensemble of John Stevens, Parker regularly collaborated with electronically-enhanced musicians, but stayed resolutely acoustic himself.

In the early 90s, he became more actively engaged with synthetic sounds, forming his electric Acoustic-Ensemble with Italian boffins Walter Prati and Marco Vecchi. The original idea was for Parker and the other members of his regular trio to improvise, t heir sounds becoming fodder for computer transmogrification.

Bassist Barry Guy and percussionist Paul Lytton had already used primitive electronics as part of their performing armoury, throwing in a further complication. Violinist Phillipp Wachsmann is usually as seen as an improviser but initially, he was drafted in to join the Italian in his sound-rupturing capacity.

Parker first collaborated with Prati as early as 1987. Perhaps he was prompted by the activities of frequent collaborator George Lewis, although the American trombonist had been mostly concerned with artificial intelligence computer programmes. These act ually respond to improvisation, entering into a dialogue with the flesh and blood musician. Instead, Parker has become more interested in the alteration of existing sound, a form of real time remixing.

The original idea was for each 'technician' to be assigned to their own acoustic partner changing only that person's output. Gradually, these roles have blurred, with Wachsmann spending more time playing violin and new member Lawrence Casserley bringing along his own self-built sampling instrument. Simply put, the Italians work in the abstract realm of knobs and buttons while Casserley has a more impassioned hands-on approach. Parker and Guy spent time in Amsterdam, acting as guinea pigs for this ex-pat English professor's patenting process, providing hints on just what a live performer would need and how they would interact with Casserley's system.

Their first fruits were pressed on last year's ECM New Series album Towards the Margins.

"Even by the time of the record," says Parker we'd broken the rigidity of that, and opened it up to multiple treatment on one player, the new set-up that we have got, partly because of the hardware that Lawrence brings with him, gives us the flexibility for any processor to select any player at any time, so it's totally fluid. …