Review: Peter Evans, Okkyung Lee, Evan Parker

Peter Evans, Vortex, November 2011
Drawing by Geoff Winston. All Rights Reserved.

Peter Evans, Okkyung Lee, Evan Parker
(Vortex, Monday 21 November 201. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)


Evan Parker's opening remark that "the future of music is sitting either side of me" would also have been the perfect endnote to an utterly compelling performance by this extraordinary trio.

Parker, seated centrally onstage, was the perfect guide and foil to the two classically trained "youthful people" (as he put it) alongside him, who both gravitated to New York, cellist Okkyung Lee from Korea and trumpeter Peter Evans after graduation from Oberlin Conservatory, in 2000 and 2003, respectively. They had first played together as a trio in 2009 as one of the 20 performances of Parker's historic residency at John Zorn's The Stone in New York, which leaves no doubt as to the high regard in which Parker is held on the other side of the Atlantic.

Together, over two sets, they brewed up intense conversations, revealing a mesh of internal and external dialogues.

There was a telepathic closeness in the way they read one another. Within this format of commonality, each had the freedom to pursue their own trains of thought, pushing their instruments through a variety of sound barriers, dispensing with conventionally imposed constraints to offer highly individual readings of the harmonic and textural routes which evolved. There was an astonishing fecundity to the deviations from the mean, yet the intuitively held balance was maintained without fail. The rules were stretched and broken but nothing was gratuitous.

Evans was perhaps the most overtly deviant - rapidly switching between instruments, detaching the mouthpiece to blow air through the trumpet without mediation. He used the mute and the flat of his hand to dramatically change the sound and to escalate the volume to an ear-splitting screech. Lee skated over the notes, slithered along the fingerboard and found rasping, grated tones as she manipulated the bow with both hands, and paused to slide repetitively on a single note. Parker restated nervously emphatic trills on soprano to keep up the energetic chatter, echoed Evans' stark, breathed phrases and, with exultant momentum, filled the room with the tenor's resonance. Soft acoustic passages glowed with detail. The merest sounds were built up to form complex rhythms and allowed to decay.

The timbres would get blurred - Evans and Lee even took on woodwind sounds at different times. And with Evans spinning off at ultra-high energy on his left, and Lee going from matt to gloss tones on his right, Parker steered the ship, not into port, but through the only passage all evening that would count as a straight jazzy run before heading for a final Futurist aerodynamic whine and dive.

One moment of mild humour - when a mobile alarm bell went off, thankfully between numbers, and not exactly complementing the siren sounds and alarms mimicked during the performance, Parker quipped, "Electro-Acoustic ... missed your chance!", referring to his long-standing and fluid Ensemble which Evans joined in 2009.

Dramatic, captivating and fascinating to watch. Another Vortex highlight.

Current releases:

(1) Parker/Lee/Evans: ‘The Bleeding Edge’; CD on PSI (recorded in Whitstable)
(2) Peter Evans: ‘Beyond Civilized and Primitive’; limited edition vinyl LP on Dancing Wayang – 500 numbered copies – first 100 get bonus mini-CD.

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