Evan Parker: Improvvisazioni notes

These are the unabridged notes to Improvvisazioni, the 1995 recording of Evan Parker/Antonello Salis/Mauro Orselli released on ADA 02. Originally written in Italian by Francesco Martinelli they were significantly shortened for the booklet that accompanied the CD, and they have not previously appeared in an English language version.


I had the luck to be able to accompany Evan Parker around Italy in January 1995, for a string of solo concerts that brought us from Roccamorice (Pescara) to Grea di Cadore in a kaleidoscope of spaces, situations and musics (Roccamorice is a very small town in the hills over the Adriatic sea in Abruzzo, while Grea is a mountain town in the Alps over Venice).

After a memorable concert in the Colosseo Theatre with a huge and concentrated audience, Roman drummer Mauro Orselli took the initiative of inviting Evan Parker into the studio with piano player Antonello Salis for a session of what Evan calls "speculative recording": to document a musical situation that the musicians, on the base of their mutual knowledge, should find interesting, without being obliged to make a record, unless everybody feels that the results are worth it.

After many years of association with a definite group of musicians - the English pioneers of free improvisation, Alex von Schlippenbach's groups, and above all his own trio with Barry Guy and Paul Lytton - the limpid coherence of EP's musical personality and his inexhaustible musical research have prompted composers and improvisors from wide ranging backgrounds to consider the possibility of collaboration with him: in the previous month the trio with Paul Bley and Barre Phillips had recorded (and had a lenghty tour) while in concert Parker met with musicians ranging from Henri Texier to Joe McPhee to Nicholas Collins (his concert with Zoviet France came after I wrote this), besides "normal" collaborations with LJCO and his own Electronic Project, including Italian Walter Prati.

Antonello Salis and Mauro Orselli should not need to be introduced to the italian audience, while it's true that their gigs are inversely proportional in number to the interest of their music. Salis' artistic biography is far too long to be even resumed here; we'll mention that in the last years he has developed his own voice on the accordion and uses this expressively, doubling with piano both in solo and group settings; among his records I'd like to mention the excellent Live in Como (Splasc(h)) a duo with saxophone player Sandro Satta, a collaboration started more than 15 years ago.

Percussion player Orselli shares with Parker the determination to explore deeply the expressive possibilities of his trio with Antonio Apuzzo and Sandro Lalla: a must listen is his record with Gianni Gebbia, soprano saxophone, and Antonio Maccioccu, cello (Canti di Ombre, sombreri e voli, Le Parc) while his own Navigazioni finds him on piano and koto as well, engaged in a totally different dimension with - among others - Giancarlo Schiaffini: suspended rhythms, timbre manipulation, with percussion becoming more sound and colour than existing as a rythmic factor.

Parker is of course an old friend of Italy, a country where since the seventies he developed an especially fruitful association, thanks also to many organizations and promoters that allowed him to present his music in different settings, including large-scale projects - I want to recall the Improvisors Symposium that still remains one of the more interesting things realized in Pisa within the International Jazz Festival; the relationship with Sardinia is particularly deep, as Sardinian music has some points in common with the expressive means devised by Parker during his instrumental research.

And this bring us right in the middle of things, as Sardinian Salis' music has very deep mediterranean roots, which he used to present a particular musical problem to the saxophone: a dancing melody on the accordeon, with splashes of color from Orselli's percussion. It's clear from the very beginning that these three easily find a common ground. The musical materials proposed by Salis are immediately absorbed by Parker and projected through his typical phrasing, sustained by Orselli's interjections, who in his turn begins to paint a connective texture under the reeds. They very soon exchange roles, with a rhythm-based dialogue between sax and percussion, sustained by long notes by Salis, full of colors; he even hints to a walking bass, immediately changing it in a tarantella (rapid dance of the Italian south, said to be danced by people bit by the tarantula to cure the bite, a possession dance). Exactly at the middle of the track there's an excited climax, from which a suspended atmosphere emerges, almost a middle-eastern call flying over small and silvery buzzs, before the initial theme returns, called by the percussive effects of tongue slapping on reed; a series of dramatic "strappati" (violent dynamic changes) frame a convoluted saxophone line that closes the track, classic in development and proportions, original in material and its treatment.

I have a long experience of concerts, but the atmosphere in the studio (Piero Schiavoni's historical studio for the Roman contemporary music scene) is charged with a different emotion: the energy comes not from the audience but is generated by the dialogue between the musicians; they agree on small organisational things, and the comunication is mostly non verbal. Disposition of instruments, volume levels, are taken care of with professional concentration, and this assumes the role of introductory rite, of a cut-off from everyday life heavier than the soundproofed door, building that moment of silence that precedes the collective plunge into musical creation.

After the recording comes a moment of relaxation, with the unwinding and the curiosity about what the tape retained; everybody is tired but can't help commenting - again perhaps on small particulars or shades, like old school artisans, who know the importance of details; without assumption, if anything with a certain understatement about the musical results.

And after a few months of work and reflection, the result is what you can listen to on this CD: a music whose appeal resides in the lucky paradox of an instantaneous creation that only through repeated listening concedes its own riches of expressive stratification, of formal cleanness, without losing expressive urgency. Following closely the myriad strands, as I tried to suggest above for the first track, the design acquires depth, the single contributions show purpose, so that you might think that the three musicians based themselves on a detailed compositional profile: this is not true. I was there.

Francesco Martinelli