Dusted Reviews

Parker/ Schlippenbach/ Lytton - America 2003

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Parker/ Schlippenbach/ Lytton

Album: America 2003

Label: Psi

Review date: Sep. 23, 2004

A case of lemons into lemonade if ever there was one, America 2003 owes its existence to the resiliency and fortitude of European improv ties. In the winter of '02, rumblings resounded through the creative improv community that the long-standing trio of saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton were putting together an epic tour. Sadly, fate stepped in with a personal crisis that forced Guy to bow out of his slot at the last minute. Pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, a venerable colleague of Parker’s from various contexts including an eponymous trio, was the natural choice for pinch-hitter. He quickly assumed the vacant spot and the three hit the road for an extended road trip crisscrossing the States.

Two gigs from the tour - one taped at the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, the other culled from a concert at the Seattle Asian Arts Museum - comprise the set. Each clocks at an even hour and bears evidence of editing, though not intrusively so. Fidelity is pristine in both instances, allowing for close scrutiny of the three musicians’ highly nuanced methods of communication. The sleeve photo shows them seated in front of an ice-cream parlor, Parker and Schlippenbach adopting the look of stern academicians, rulers at the ready to rap listeners’ knuckles. It’s a fitting visual complement to the music. The cover and traycard shots of Arizona cholla at dusk - prickly and difficult, but simultaneously statuesque and majestic - suggest another apropos corollary.

Schlippenbach’s presence gives much of the music a decidedly more jazz-oriented slant, particularly in the opening sections of both dates. A devoted Monk disciple, his whip-smart style of chording built on cantilevered patterns that slide and lock at odd intervals fits with Lytton’s sideways method of etching a rhythm. Parker seems amenable to the tack too, breathing bone-dry rivulets of notes in arid gusts that oddly recall Stan Getz. His oblique phrases slowly add serrated whorls and ridges, much like time-lapse footage of a tugboat hull accumulating craggy barnacle growth. Soon the three are advancing at a collective sprint, a three-pronged convex of funneling momentum and energy that eventually recedes into silence. Later, Lytton switches to clatter mode tinkering with bowls and other objects on the surfaces of his skins. Schlippenbach responds with introspection, pecking the same pedal-dampened notes in proximity before expanding with a jaunty procession of right-hand chords. The shared pulse quickens as Lytton moves to hummingbird brushes. Parker, this time on soprano, catches the building wave, ululating against his partners’ frothing tide. The Seattle concert follows a course that is at once familiar and foreign and equally resistant to descriptive reportage.

Both concerts also make room for solo features. The New Orleans date contains a sortie by Schlippenbach built on delicate, melodically-arched patterns punctured by stabbing staccato notes. His solo gains density, kneading out knotted and swirling runs that soon revert to the dark spaciousness of the improvisation’s opening. Parker assumes the solitary slot on the Seattle date, using it for one of his signature soprano fractals. It’s a typically impressive display from a technical standpoint, but hardly a departure from anything he’s done before in that vein. Guy’s absence is regrettable, but Schlippenbach is a more than worthy substitute. Generous in scope and execution, this is a challenging and involving set of improv and a rare memento of this trio’s music made on stateside shores.

By Derek Taylor

Read More

View all articles by Derek Taylor

Find out more about Psi

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.