Trevor Barre’s Convergences, Divergences & Affinities: The Second Wave of Free Improvisation in England Reviewed

British saxophonist Evan Parker performing liv...

Source: burning ambulance.

Convergences, Divergences & Affinities: The Second Wave of Free Improvisation in England, 1973-1979 is a sequel to his previous book Beyond Jazz: Plink, Plonk & Scratch: The Golden Age of Free Music in London 1966-1972, which I have not read. This book is unlike any other music history I’ve read—the closest analogue might be Joe Carducci‘s Rock and the Pop Narcotic, not because Barre has an overriding Grand Theory as Carducci does but because the perspective is relentlessly first-person. Barre is constantly interrupting lengthy quotations with parenthetical asides, usually to disagree with the writer about some minor point. He also provides a lot of eyewitness testimony, either about albums (he’s heard ’em), venues (he was there) or events (likewise). And many interesting quotes from high-profile improv musicians like Evan Parker come from personal communications with Barre. But he’s also done a ton of research, likely by wandering out to his garage and opening old cardboard boxes. The book is full of quotes from articles in tiny independent journals that were covering the improv scene, like Musics, Microphone and Resonance.