REVIEW: Evan Parker and The Necks at Cafe Oto



Evan Parker at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2014. All Rights Reserved
Evan Parker and The Necks
(Cafe Oto, 20th October 2014. Review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

To celebrate his 70th birthday, Evan Parker has curated a week of back-to-back gigs at The Vortex and Cafe Oto which pair him with some of his favourite musicians. The festivities kicked off in grand style on Monday with his sell-out concert with masters of acoustic trance-jazz improvisation, the Australian trio, The Necks, at Cafe Oto.

The Necks invited him to record a BBC Late Junction session with them last autumn, a rare event, as the trio has only asked 3 musicians to play with them over their 26 year history. Evan Parker's return invitation indicates the respect each holds for the other. Their rapport in two powerful sets was underscored by a shared musical language, which saw them reaching out to cement creative bonds, and in their finely honed abilities to respond to the inputs that each brought to this musical journey.

Their two sets had the feel of a two-part epic poem in their scale and ambition and in the ways the quartet - as it had briefly become - collectively built on, supported and ceaselessly refined the underlying melodic and repetitive themes that the saxophonist, principally, introduced to the dialogue.

On soprano sax, Parker soared skywards, invoking the massed callings and chatterings of feathered flocks in circular, multi-dimensional figures, and then, more grounded, the crowing of cockerels. Chris Abrahams on Cafe Oto's Yamaha piano, intuitively picked up on the structures and rhythms that Parker brought in to the mix, mimicking, echoing and using them as springboards for both glissando runs and thunderous excavations in the lowest register.

Drummer Tony Buck combined the interplay between percussive rhythm and melody in the expressive foundation that he and bassist, Lloyd Swanton, continually burnished as the atmospheric ambience took on different shades and intensities. Swanton, flipping from bowed gyrations to deft changes of pace, complemented Buck's palette, which included the hollow, oceanic timbres of nut shell shakers and a hand cymbal wheeled to glance the top of the tom's metal structure with uncanny, machine-like regularity.

The second set offered a slightly softer counterpart to the sharper tones of the first, and a fleet, brightly articulated passage initiated by Evan Parker suggested the flowing momentum of a Cyril Power linocut. Humour was not absent either, as variations on piano scales were played out by Abrahams.

Epic, welling drama was never far from the flow, and a pulsating, hammering sequence preceded a richly crafted, lyrical passage from Parker which directed the saga to its close, an understated episode that had the quartet rowing at a gentle pace to the tranquility of the shore.

Swanton looked forward to the next visit of the Necks - ‘In April!’ came the shout from the back. And Evan Parker’s demanding week’s schedule promises to be as fulfilling as its first, very special showcase event.

Evan Parker - soprano saxophone

The Necks:
Chris Abrahams - piano
Tony Buck - drums, percussion
Lloyd Swanton - double bass

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