Evan Parker, who helped write the book on radical saxophony, apparently once referred to Seymour Wright as “a very radical saxophonist”. But I’ll say it up front: I’m not particularly enamoured of Wright’s style. I’ve seen him perform a few times, and sometimes been taken aback by how precisely articulate and fluently creative he can be. That should be no surprise, as he’s been a regular at Prévost’s Goldsmiths improv workshop since 1999*. In turn, it’s perhaps no surprise that his playing tends to be as abstrusely abstract and bloodlessly cerebral as it is bracingly rarefied. For evidence of which, check out the rather self-conscious and belaboured works of lll人, a trio with Paul Abbott on drums and Daichi Yoshikawa electronics.
Parker, as Stewart Lee once said, has been, and remains, many listeners’ “gateway drug” to free improvisation. He still works tirelessly to revivify his playing, but sometimes seems to have painted himself into a corner, as with those fabulous flocking flurries of circular breathing on soprano saxophone – just one aspect of his repertoire, but an important one, and as ineffable and as easily taken for granted as a blackbird’s song. So maybe here’s another surprise: Tie the Stone to the Wheel is just as sublimely listenable as it is freshly, and often breathtakingly creative. Seymour Wright turns out to be Parker’s ideal foil, and vice-versa.
The two saxophonists contest as much as complement each other’s concepts and execution. I can’t improve on Fataka’s pinpoint assessment: “The two interrupt and augment each other incessantly, creating tight spirals of difference and similarity that crackle with ideas and energy.”
Of the five pieces on Tie the Stone to the Wheel (Fataka), two were recorded (by Sebastian Lexer) in concert, in October 2014 (“Wheel”), and three more a week later, at a studio session (“Stone”).
The first piece, “Wheel I”, is an unbroken improvisation lasting 17:55. It begins with a tart, astringent testing of Parker’s snaking soprano sax strategies, a seethe and spillage of assertive whoops and cries. Any solo flights of fancy are immediately countered and ballasted by purring trills and grounding vibrato. Mostly, the two players’ lines writhe and wrangle in slithery coils of exacting—and for the listener, spellbinding—one-upmanship.
While Wright plays alto sax throughout, Parker switches from soprano to tenor sax for “Wheel II”: similar stratagems, more curtly essayed in throatier registers. The three studio pieces, “Stone” I-III, could hardly be more focused, but do introduce subtler degrees of separation, as the two essay parallel complimentary lines, testing their relationship more assiduously and binding each other closer together in the process.
Evan Parker soprano and tenor saxophones; Seymour Wright alto saxophone.
Sebastian Lexer & Steve Noble – Muddy Ditch.
Axel Dörner and Mark Sanders – Stonecipher + Ikue Mori and Steve Noble – Prediction and Warning.
John Butcher and Matthew Shipp – At Oto + John Coxon, Evan Parker and Eddie Prévost – Cinema.
Minibus Pimps (John Paul Jones and Helge ‘Deathprod’ Sten) + Steve Noble and Sebastian Lexer at Cafe Oto, 13 July 2012.
Buy Tie the Stone to the Wheel from Fataka’s Bandcamp.
* Interview with Sebastian Lexer & Seymour Wright, August 2008 (anothertimbre.com)