REVIEW: Evan Parker and Alexander Hawkins at the Vortex

Alex Hawkins and Evan Parker at the Vortex
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2016. All Rights Reserved


Evan Parker and Alexander Hawkins
(Vortex, 26th May 2016; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

The strength of the duo of Evan Parker and Alexander Hawkins lies in their rapport. There may be nearly forty years in age between them, but they read each other so well. At the Vortex there was no deference shown or allowances made on either part, and no let-up in the energy and invention that both brought to the stage.

Ostensibly regrouping at the Vortex to promote their Leaps in Leicester CD, recorded for the adventurous Portugese jazz label, Clean Feed in spring 2015 at Leicester University's Embrace Arts (now renamed the Attenborough Arts Centre), no effort was spared in their closely steered dialogue over two substantial sets.

With Hawkins setting down a marker, running fingers over the piano wires, tapping faintly on its body, mixing chordal chimes with damped down restraint, Parker's tough-toned tenor was tempered with a rolling, soft edge that floated and flew.

Parker mapped out chunks of phrasing and rhythmic consistency which served as touchstones. No matter how far they strayed these always drew them back on course. Hawkins summoned abstract flights with the spirit of a hyper-accelerated Poulenc which Parker drew alongside with agile flair, and some way through the first set their combined momentum took on an epic scale. While the saxophonist let his deep jazz roots flavour the odd sequence, Hawkins, by contrast, almost found a tune in a syncopated sequence that timed out with dense, dusty chords.

Hawkins' quietly breaking introduction to their second session had the feel of Messiaen solo piano, yet it was not long before dizzy runs kicked in, countered by stop-off points where the pianist's single note repetitions mimicked Parker's pitch. In the spirit of Cecil Taylor, Hawkins took on the challenge of the pianistic equivalent of Parker's 'controlled circular exhalation' (the term he prefers to 'circular breathing') spiked with rapid fire runs and changes of pace, to which Parker added his very particular gravitas leavened with an inspired, light touch to square the circle.

Evan Parker - tenor sax
Alexander Hawkins - piano

LINK: Leaps in Leicester on Cleanfeed

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