Exceptional explorations in jazz
Mar 23 2009 Jazz Diary by Peter Bacon
Two of Britain’s greatest saxophonists are in town this week.
One is close to being a household name and in 2000 was awarded an OBE for his services to jazz. The other remains something of a mystery outside the more dedicated jazz circles.
The mystery first. Evan Parker is one of the most astounding saxophonists you will ever hear. One performance is indelibly marked on my memory.
He played a stream of notes, patterns and phrases on the soprano saxophone, using circular breathing to give it an unbroken line, and not one note was in the conventional range of the instrument – all were harmonics and overtones, achieved by a fearsome technique, decades of dedication and a determination to start his musical explorations in a realm others have not even entered.
Yes, it might seem wilfully contrary behaviour, but it’s a contrariness that, when you hear it, can be overwhelmingly exhilarating.
You might not hear anything like that soprano solo on Saturday night at the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath, when Evan Parker appears in an unstructured jazz trio with drummer Mark Sanders and bassist John Edwards, but you will have your ears opened to the exceptional and the extraordinary.
Full marks to Polar Bear, the record shop just round the corner from the Hare & Hounds for putting on this gig. Tickets £10 from Polar Bear (0121 441 5202) or on the door and it starts at 8pm.
* On Thursday, Courtney Pine is at the Town Hall with the Jazz Warriors Afropeans.
The British saxophone giant revitalised the Warriors, adding the fully explanatory name, for a 2007 concert celebrating the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery.
Many of the older players are present – now established band leaders in their own right, like Tony Kofi, Dennis Rollins, Byron Wallen and Alex Wilson – as well as more recent additions to the fold like Cuban violinist Omar Puente and younger players like Shabaka Hutchings.
It would be great if Afropean entered the language to recognise the rich contribution Europeans of African origin have made to the continent.
You can hear what it all sounds like from 7.30pm on Thursday when the 15-strong Jazz Warriors Afropeans and Courtney Pine take the stage.
It’s a band that mixes a deep understanding of heritage and history with a jubilant celebration of present identity. Tickets from £16.50 at thsh.co.uk or on 0121 780 3333.
* Other good gigs this week:
Tomorrow – Chris Bowden’s Tomorrow Band at the Jam House, from 9.30pm. Free.
Wednesday – The Jazz Club at The Rainbow presents Zappajazz, from 9pm. £3.
Friday – Rush Hour Blues Poll Winners, Walsall Jazz Orchestra, in the Symphony Hall foyer from 5.30pm. Free.