Evan Parker, Agusti Fernandez - "Part I (excerpt)" (The Voice is One)
Evan Parker doesn’t record often in a sax/piano duo and I’ve found many of the sessions he has laid down (collaborations with Georg Gräwe, John Tilbury , Borah Bergman, and Matthew Shipp) to be uneven affairs. But there are a few memorable meetings, like his two duo recordings with Stan Tracey or his duo with Misha Mengelberg. And while Catalan pianist Agusti Fernández has recorded some of his strongest work in duos, they have been with bassists (Peter Kowald and Barry Guy) or with guitarists (Derek Bailey and Joe Morris.) That said, Fernández and Parker have been working out a particularly fruitful collaboration over the last two decades in a variety of contexts (duos, a trio collaboration with Herb Robertson, a collaboration with the Parker/Guy Lytton trio, participation in Barry Guy’s New Orchestra project, and in Parker’s Electro-Acoustic Ensemble). The two last recorded as a duo in 1996 so this live recording, which captures the set the two performed as part of the 2009 Festival de Jazz de Barcelona, is particularly welcome.
They start out with wistful abstraction as Parker floats long breathy tenor notes over Fernández’s slowly modulating melodic kernels, gradually building intensity from wending phrases of free romanticism. Neither rush things, instead developing momentum naturally from the intersections of Parker’s mounting whorls and Fernández’s intensifying angular cascades. The two are masterful at advancing web-like densities without resorting to brawn and bluster. Fernández follows up with a solo outing that effectively showcases his architectural sense of form, utilizing motivic fragments that eddy into cresting torrents and then wrap back to a poised resolve. “Part III” kicks off with inside-piano abrasions playing timbral counterpoint to tenor jabs and the two parry back and forth from there, with Parker’s lines building cyclic swells over his partner’s muscular vigor. Again, the two know how to amp things up and then back off to build tension rather than resorting to buffeting blasts.
The 15-minute “Part V” picks things up again, setting off with a conversational give-and-take. Pointillistic stabs from each player get stretched and overlapped with knotty free lyricism as the pianist plucks and scrapes his strings against dusky tenor exhortations. Then, 10 minutes in, things suddenly charge off, with Parker’s dizzying cyclical lines spilling across Fernández’s blizzarding arpeggios as the energy advances with strapping authority, spontaneously circling round to a hushed conclusion. The concert wraps up with a compact encore as plucked, bent strings resonate against spare, burred tenor; each player placing their notes within a collective sense of space aptly embodying the title of this release, The Voice Is One.