Crafting a musically cohesive, uncongested free improvisation with a small group is hard enough. It become much more difficult the larger the ensemble. Some large groups—the Variable Geometry Orchestra comes to mind—have been able to manage this nicely. Add to their number the Setola di Maiale Unit, an ensemble headed by percussionist Stefano Giust.
The Setola di Maiale Unit is a free improvisation group whose membership isn’t fixed. Many of the players are artists on the Setola di Maiale label, which Giust heads. For their appearance at the 2018 AngelicA Festival in Bologna the group, in addition to Giust, consisted of Marco Colonna on clarinets; Martin Mayes on horn and alphorn; Patrizia Oliva on voice and electronics; Alberto Novello on analog electronics; Giorgio Pacorig on piano; and Michele Anelli on double bass. Special guest Evan Parker sat in on tenor and soprano saxophones, while composer Philip Corner and dancer Phoebe Neville dropped to play a brief introduction on gongs. The performance was in part a celebration of label’s twenty-fifth anniversary—an auspicious landmark, and a fittingly fine set to commemorate it.
The hour-long improvisation is tracked into five sections prefaced by Corner and Neville’s introduction. Each section highlights some aspect of the group’s work, usually on the basis of the many subgroupings that emerge over the course of the set. What’s remarkable is that there was no conducting or direction; the changes in dynamics and density and the frequent interludes for solos, duos, and trios were arrived at spontaneously. Each player has some time as a leading voice if not a soloist; there are beautiful soliloquies for piano and drums, and instances of impromptu polyphony breaking out among the horns. It’s exactly the kind of playing one would expect from some of Europe’s most sensitive improvisers, and a happy anniversary indeed.
Evan Parker’s recent run at the Stone is reviewed.
The saxophonist Evan Parker projects an intensely concentrated energy through his music. Now 65, he has spent more than 40 years in the trenches of the British avant-garde, metabolizing the ideas of free jazz and perfecting his own strategies of sound, which skew atonal but often lyrical. He’s hailed as a virtuoso of extended techniques — circular breathing, multiphonics, sculptured overtones — and lionized for his solo excursions. He’s also a tireless collaborator, secure in his footing and perpetually primed for engagement.
Evan Parker’s upcoming Chicago show is previewed in the Reader:
Evan Parker & Ned Rothenberg
Sun 9/27, 3 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630.
British saxophonist Evan Parker, who plays a free concert with reedist Ned Rothenberg on Sunday at the Chicago Cultural Center, is one of the most instantly recognizable improvisers in the world. He’s developed an idiosyncratic vocabulary distinguished by mastery of circular breathing and polyphonics, and throughout a career spanning more than four decades he’s stayed open to new ideas. A committed sonic explorer, he’s had a dizzying variety of collaborators—he’s made pioneering music with the likes of Derek Bailey and Peter Brötzmann and he’s played in a swing band with Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts.
Pianist Crispell is interviewed.
Marilyn Crispell is widely considered one of the leading contemporary jazz pianists and composers. Her reach is tremendous. She can coax extraordinary beauty out of standards such as “You Don’t Know What Love Is” or Coltrane’s “Dear Lord” by often locating pockets and eddies in the tune that allow for tremendous elaboration while still staying true to the tune. On her own compositions, Crispell has often been much more explosive, playing pounding rhythmic counterpoint opposite cascades of runs up and down the keyboard. Since 1996, on her recordings for ECM, she has explored a more contemplative side, one that emphasizes space, interiority, and quietness. During the 80’s Crispell was a member of Anthony Braxton‘s quartet. She has also played with such major jazz luminaries as Irene Schweizer, Barry Guy, Evan Parker, Reggie Workman, Noelle Leandre and many, many others.