House Full Of Floorsby Evan Parker
On an inside panel of the booklet for House Full of Floors, Evan Parker's second release for John Zorn's Tzadik imprint (and his third album of 2009), he writes simply of the session as if framing a poem: "The plan was to / record the trio. / Aleks Kolkowski / came to make some / wax cylinder recordings / and he stayed / to play some / quartet pieces." The truth of the matter is, this is hardly disingenuous. The recording actually sounds exactly like its description. Parker, guitarist John Russell, and bassist John Edwards are featured on the majority of this beautiful set in a series of trios and duets that are knotty, subtle, and deeply intuitive improvisational pieces. Kolkowski joins them on a Stroh viola, the saw, and wax cylinder recorder on two tracks as well. Parker's signature as an improviser is immediate. Whether it's a series of single-note lines and phrases or tonal clusters rushing out of his tenor or soprano, the control is total. A prime example is "Ca-la-ba-son," an 11-minute trio piece where we first hear Russell's acoustic guitar before some breathy elongated tones on Parker's tenor. Edwards is hammering ever so lightly on the strings of his bass as an empathic rhythmic force. Parker's sense of "melody" quickly asserts itself and Russell is then coloring the spaces between. It's a very fast shift, but one that is so precise and intuitive that it could have been scripted. Of course, exchanges happen here, and Parker doesn't need to control the language of his partners. Players take turns bleeding out the edge with unique techniques in order to follow the sound in the very moment it's being created. The soundscapes created by Kolkowski on "Figure Dancing" and "Aka AK" are seamlessly integrated. The informal approach of the viola creating new textures for Parker's tonal investigations is unique, haunting, and beautiful on the former track -- with some gorgeous, almost lyrical colors and shapes emanating from the quartet -- and cartoony (thanks to the saw, no doubt) and dizzying on the latter one. The title piece, near the end of the album, is also its longest. The most halting of phrases comes from Parker and Russell simultaneously and is underlined haltingly by Edwards at first. The sparse manner of stepping onto new ground quickly and deftly becomes a firm way forward. The stutter, stop, and start movements of the sax and guitar in the middle are accompanied by a droning note by Edwards, who follows it in a "solo" cluster of chords patch, ever so briefly, before the entire group comes together as before, though they're more assertive and ever more labyrinthine as they go in. The album's final track, "Wind Up," is a spooky, lovely thing. Because of the wax cylinder overdub backing the trio, there are infinitely greater series of tonal possibilities, but these three don't need them; they work their way into the wax recording, finding an entirely different direction on the way there than the one they previously recorded. There are so many records by Parker at this point that it can feel anticlimactic when a new one appears. But that shouldn't be, simply because he records when he is looking for something or, as in the case here, simply to record to see what happens. And here, just as is evidenced by the vast majority of his albums, plenty does.
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