Evan Parker | Barry Guy | Paul Lytton | Live at Maya Recordings Festival | No Business Records

Evan Parker – soprano and tenor saxophones | Barry Guy – bass | Paul Lytton – drums

Recorded in concert at the Maya Recordings Festival 23 – 25 September, 2011 at Theater am Gleis, Winterthur, Switzerland. Music composed by Evan Parker, Barry Guy (PRS/ MCPS/PPL) and Paul Lytton (GEMA). Sound Engineers – Walter Schmid and Martin Gersberger. Photo of Evan Parker by Gérard Rouy. Photo of Barry Guy by Dmitrij Matvejev. Photo of Paul Lytton by Danas Mikailionis. Mixed and mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios. Design by Oskaras Anosovas. Producer – Danas Mikailionis. Co-producer – Valerij Anosov. Special thanks to Max E. Keller.

Tracklist LP Side A: OBSIDIAN Side B: CHERT Side C: GABBRO  Side D: SCORIA

Tracklist CD: 1. Obsidian 22’31” 2. Chert 13’11” 3. Gabbro 17’29” 4. Scoria 8’21”


As a musician Evan Parker is a man of many faces.

On the one hand he is always looking for new collaborations like on C-Section with electronic madman John Wiese (Second Layer Recordings), Live at Akbank Jazz Festival (Re:konstruKkt) with the Turkish group konstruKt or ‘Round About One O’clock (Not Two) with Slovenian drummer and percussionist Zlatko Kaučič. On the other hand he likes long time relations like his Electro-Acoustic Ensemble (although many new members have been added to this project), the legendary Schlippenbach Trio (as to persistence the Rolling Stones of free jazz) and the Evan Parker Trio (with Barry Guy on bass and Paul Lytton on drums).

Albeit the work of this trio is pretty well documented (their first album was Tracks in 1983), there haven’t been many albums in the last 15 years (just Nightwork/Marge, Zafiro/Maya, 2×3=5/Leo) – if you don’t count the albums when the band was augmented by guest musicians like Peter Evans or Marilyn Crispell. And now almost simultaneously there are the contributions to Barry Guy New Orchestra Small Formations: Mad Dogs and this one here.

And Live at Maya Recordings Festival presents the trio at its best. Especially when the whole trio is in action the building up of sound layers is of a rare intensity, a “thickly textured woven soundscape, which is constantly adding and subtracting, re-designing itself and pushing the sound through new possibilities and decisions”, as Steve Day describes it in his book “Two Full Ears”. It is music from the bottom of a Poe-ish maelstrom pretending it is perfect surfing weather. Their secret is that they are a well-greased machine, an improvising entity, a true trio – with a drummer that stirs the shit, a bass that provides an irresistible pulse (plus some extra surprises) and a saxophonist who does not use this context for selfish solos but for tight and spontaneous interaction looking for new pastures.

The best example is the last track on the album. “Scoria” starts with an intimate Guy/Lytton conference, there is an almost evil pizzicato drone by Guy, a climactic strumming supported by Lytton’s cascade of cymbal rolls before Parker’s approximates rather hesitantly to the figure of the duo before he jumps on the train with his typical circular breathing. What makes up the beauty of the piece is the contrast between the dark atmosphere created by Guy and Lytton and the twinkling sea-spray of Parker’s tenor at the end – an undertow you could addict yourself to forever … and ever … and ever. The album was recorded during a concert at the Maya Recordings Festival in September, 2011 at Theater am Gleis, in Winterthur, Switzerland. — Martin Schray


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6 thoughts on “Evan Parker | Barry Guy | Paul Lytton | Live at Maya Recordings Festival | No Business Records

  1. Questions of continued viability have long since been tabled. The trio of Parker, Guy and Lytton is as reliable an outfit as any in free improvisation. At this advanced stage of the trio’s existence, the discography extends well into the double digits.

    A seasoned listener can gauge a pretty good guess at the content of new material even before the initial striated tones start. That potential for predictability isn’t a hindrance however. Even though the performance writ-large will almost certainly contain a fair share of familiar signposts, it’s still a sustained thrill to hear these three master improvisers bounce ideas and iterations off each other at length.

    The occasion in this case, as the literal album title describes, was a Swiss festival celebrating the longevity of the Maya Recordings, a label Guy co-curates with his spouse, classical violinist Maya Homburger. Even though the trajectory of the performance limns loosely habitual tactics, the performance succeeds in resisting anything remotely notated or premeditated from all three.

    Each time out is a clean slate out of necessity given the sheer magnitude of spur-of-the-moment musical information conveyed. Where an earlier warts-and-all effort like At the Vortex from 1996 often steers toward raw intensity and aggression, the music here exhibits a greater dynamic range and diversity of direction.The superior recording fidelity also helps in this regard with all of the aural elements of the musicians’ extended techniques fully audible and immersive.

    “Obsidian” unfolds in stuttering, incremental segments, all three players operating in a whirling overlap of shared activity. Guy’s amplified strings alternate from texture-based creations to more conventionally discernable patterns, moving from corpulent to brittle and gradations in-between. A steady gain in density mirrors the opacity of the titular rock, Lytton operating often at a variable speed percussive tumble. A section two-thirds of the way into the piece opens up into long, spectral tenor tones, pointedly plucked strings and pattering brushes.

    “Chert” delivers the obligatory Parker soprano filibuster of circular breathing and cascading split tones, spilling off to be joined, eventually, by slicing arco shapes from Guy and Lytton tittering away on cymbals at the margins. “Gabbro” leavens the density even further through the integration of space into the conversation with Parker expelling a continuous tangle of tenor tendrils as Guy and Lytton bubble and swirl around him, the bassist making subtle use of his amplification to rubberize his punctuating strums. Parker sits out much of the second third of the piece leaving Guy and Lytton to create together and in isolation.

    “Scoria” serves as a de facto coda with spatial dynamics again central to ensemble action. It’s an anti-climax of sorts when compared to earlier passages of sustained intensity, but one that’s fitting for the focus of the concert and a clear pointer to a core truth in the trio’s music.

    Even when all three are racing at a collective sprint the music never fails to breathe or flow. It’s in this particular facet where their shared experience shows most.

  2. Fin septembre 2011, Barry Guy * et Maya Homburger fêtaient à Winterthour, Suisse, les vingt ans de Maya Recordings. L’occasion pour le trio – trentenaire, lui – que le contrebassiste compose avec Evan Parker et Paul Lytton de poursuivre ses efforts d’improvisation. Quatre pièces naîtront de cette nouvelle rencontre, sur lesquelles Parker passe de ténor en soprano (passablement réverbéré entre les murs du Theater am Gleis) et que Guy et Lytton détaillent à coups d’archet ou de baguettes saillants.

    Guy, pour tout dire, dirige l’essentiel des débats : sur Chert, le voici atténuant la volubilité du soprano pour imposer une approche plus sensible d’un art instrumental partagé ; sur Gabbro, il ajoute aux graves du ténor d’autres qu’il va chercher au plus profond de sa contrebasse. Ailleurs, l’association navigue sans plus de tuteur, arrangeant sur l’instant brefs coups d’éclat (frappe sèche de Lytton) et inventions parallèles (apnéiques de Parker contre harmoniques de Guy). S’il paraît sur NoBusiness (auquel Guy a déjà offert quelques belles références) et non sur Maya, impossible de taire les grandes qualités de ce Live at Maya Recordings Festival.

  3. In many ways the threesome of Evan Parker, Barry Guy and Paul Lytton is the ideal lineup for European free music, free jazz if you will. They of course are no strangers to each other, having played together rather often. But there is something in the performance Live at Maya Recordings Festival (No Business CD 55) that is even more than you might come to expect from them.

    There are three long and one shorter improvisations involved. Evan plays in his patented soprano style (that circular blur of invention) but puts forward his tenor playing a bit more than is sometimes the case. And maybe I’ve missed some of his pretty considerable output in the last decade, but at any rate I notice something in his playing on tenor here that is perhaps evidence of an evolvement. That is, it is still about the sound, yes, but there is much more about the notes than usual. His tenor playing is phenomenal here. And it’s note choice as well as timbre that stands out.

    Barry Guy is firing up the bass in exceptionally expressive and impressive ways and the recording brings out his extraordinarily way quite sharply. Paul Lytton gets that excitingly busy wash of drums that makes him integral, as always.

    And it’s funny but on this one I feel like there is a direct link between the music and the classic Ayler trio. It’s an extension, a development, but there is a rootedness that branches out of the Ayler-Peacock-Murray nexus in very nice ways. No one into the music would mistake the one for the other, but there’s a real connection, a logical progression out of that classic lineup.

    These are some of the very best of the Euro-avant masters, of course, and this is one of the very best recordings. It is powerful. It doesn’t flag. And Parker on tenor was (and is) thrilling to hear on that night. But then they all sound perfect!

  4. After twenty one recordings there may not be too much more to say about the superlative English threesome of saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist Barry Guy and drummer Paul Lytton. Some 30 years on since their debut Tracks (Incus, 1983), they converse in a language entirely of their own making, which relies on a staggering density of ideas, chops to burn and a preternatural responsiveness. Live At Maya Recordings Festival, captured at Winterthur, Switzerland in 2011 forms another top notch entry into an already distinguished discography.

    Nowadays operating as an occasional unit rather than a regular touring ensemble, they nonetheless combine with energy, conviction and passion. If anything they hew closer to free jazz core values in terms of dynamics and intensity, often coming on as a deconstructed power trio, especially when Lytton’s percussive clatter coalesces into a surging pulse. There are no preconceptions: each number is completely unscripted, with little recognizable in the way of melody or rhythm, although they do dragoon repeated motifs into the mix to build tension, as part of the bracing exchange of nuance and gesture.

    As ever the lead shifts round the group at pace. Parker’s tenor saxophone takes prominence in “Obsidian,” squeezing out gobbets of thick curdled notes, initially almost in a call and response pattern with bass and drums, but quickly accelerating into a near simultaneous three-way exposition. On occasion audible connections become apparent as when Parker echoes a staccato phrase by Guy towards the end of the cut, but more often that ability to follow even anticipate each other with telepathic accuracy transcends the obvious to produce music through something like alchemy. Saxophonist and bassist exhibit a particular affinity, notably on “Chert” where Guy’s bravura bowing intertwines with Parker’s soprano muezzin cry, circular-breathed into many braided strands replete with ghostly whistling overtones.

    There’s so much going on that paradoxically the pieces can sound samey if not listening sufficiently closely. But when digging beneath the sheer surface, the invention astonishes. Sometimes it may be easier to appreciate when there is less happening. Both Lytton and Guy demonstrate their ingenuity in “Gabbro,” as solo passages emerge from the flow as part of the natural evolution. Lytton piles textures one atop the other in a rapidfire galloping barrage, while Guy’s swooping lines plunge precipitously from the highest harmonics to the very depths and then instantaneously reverse in a flurry of hyperactive resonance. But it remains as a unit where they are at their strongest, and this bulletin from the road suggests that there is still plenty of mileage in their tanks yet.

  5. Saxophonist Evan Parker, bassist Barry Guy and percussionist Paul Lytton are stalwarts of the European free improvisation scene. On this live recording, the come together on four vibrant performances, creating music that is boundary expanding yet accessible. I sometimes have trouble comprehending collective free improvisation when it is very quiet and slow, but this was not a problem with this album where the musicians moved dynamically through a number of textures and tempos that kept the music interesting. The quiet and spare midsection on “Obsidian” was counterbalanced by Parker’s soprano saxophone that swoops and dives on the unaccompanied beginning to “Chert.” He moves the saxophone through a number of filigrees and figures that coalesce into a free and unencumbered flight. The music was mysterious and probing, and gave way to Guy’s entry on bowed bass and Lytton’s subtle percussion. The build off of each others strength to make a highly cohesive group improvisation. The begin “Gabbro” with subtle probing, and Parker switching to tenor saxophone. The the music builds and draws power inexorably, as if powered by an unseen force, communicating in a language all its own, honed through many years of the three men performing together, creating music that is bracing in its range and power. They draw back briefly, then charge ahead to the finale. The performance named “Scoria” begins slowly before developing into a worrying, anxious wave of emotional cries and nervous beats. They end the performance on a high note that it to be admired.

  6. Jugando en casa, en el festival que celebraba el vigésimo aniversario de Maya Recordings, el trío formado por Evan Parker, Barry Guy y Paul Lytton todavía suena, si cabe, mejor. Como de costumbre, su música se reparte en temas improvisados -que este CD son cuatro-, en los que hay espacio para solos, dúos y tríos. Música intensa, directa y energética que lanzada por uno de los músicos arrastra a sus compañeros, para que al cabo de unos instantes se convierta en una sonoridad abstracta y llena de espacios. Estos cambios nunca aparentan ser forzados. Por el contrario, ocurren con una gran naturalidad. La naturalidad que proporciona una carrera como trío que en esos momentos iba a por su tercera década. Irresistibles en directo, también son capaces de atrapar la atención del oyente con sus grabaciones.

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