By John Sharpe
On the last Thursday of every month saxophone elder statesman Evan Parker invites a different set of collaborators to join him at north London’s Vortex jazz club, where part of this riveting album was recorded. His ongoing residency showcases regular partnerships as well as new encounters which preclude any hint of familiarity. Not all of them make it to disc. There’s still no sign of the fabulous quartets Parker helmed with fellow reedman Paul Dunmall for instance. So, when a collaboration does merit release, it’s worth paying attention.
On Chiasm, Parker links up with three younger Danes who go under the banner Kinetics (the other half of the album was recorded in the studio in the Danish capital). While the band was originally a vehicle for the exploration of pianist Jacob Anderskov’s compositions, since its 2015 debut it has developed into a free jazz outfit of the first rank. Although Kinetics has a separate existence, the addition of Parker to the front line does nothing to upset the balance, with as much interest residing below the surface as above it on the four collectively birthed tracks.
The empathy is clear from the start of “London Part I,” which takes up almost half of the album’s 38-minute playing time. Bassist Adam Pultz Melbye’s querulous arco, Anderskov’s rumbling piano innards and Anders Vestergaard’s crash and rattle hang in taut equilibrium, before the entry of Parker’s coolly askew tenor phrases propels them into a tumbling cascade of high-speed exchange. There’s an organic quality to the interaction, manifest in how the focus constantly shifts, first to a spellbinding tenor/arco duet, and later into an almost ballad like terrain. Indicative of the responsiveness is Parker’s guttural rejoinder to one passage of Vestergaard bristling clatter. But the unit’s strong suit remains the thickened staccato interplay that follows and which appears repeatedly throughout the program.
Circular breathing constitutes an integral part of Parker’s style and one of the challenges for any group is how to react to his forays, whether to mirror or contrast. Here they do both. On “Copenhagen Part II,” Anderskov initially intones an ominous rhythmic throb, matched by Vestergaard, before easing into a dizzying recurring pattern alongside Melbye which echoes Parker’s continuous multiphonics. On the concluding “London Part II,” the pianist opts for a thunderous sustain which persists as Parker breaks out into insistent lines, and drums and bass punctuate the storm. Once the saxophonist stops, a coda of pattering piano, clanking cymbals and pulsing bass forms a satisfying conclusion to a splendid affirmation that neither age or geography are barriers to vital music-making.