RT 9349 (2014)
Evan Parker : tenor saxophone
Recorded at Garden Cottage / Delbury Hall on June 27, 2014
Ken Waxman, JazzWord
Montreal-based Red Toucan’s decision to release UK-recorded Extremes (RT 9349) demonstrates its commitment to this music. Parker on tenor saxophone, alongside Paul Dunmall, another intense British tenor specialist, plus American drummer Tony Bianco offer a three-track master class in free-form improvisation. With the drummer keeping up a constant barrage of smacks, whacks, ruffs and pops in the propulsive Elvin Jones tradition, the saxophonists dig into every variation and shading of reed and metal tones like an updated John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. Unlike the maelstrom of bedlam-like expression in which some sound explorers operate however Dunmall and Parker play with relaxed intensity. This isn’t a cutting contest either, but a demonstration of how saxophonists can function as separate parts of a single entity. With the final “Horus” especially adding affirming motes to the jazz tradition via glossolalia and faint echoes of Sonny Rollins’ “East Broadway Rundown”, each player maintains his individuality no matter how many harsh snorts or siren-pitched expressions are unleashed. Parker’s tone is distinguished by lighter vibrations and swifter split tones while Dunmall’s timbres are darker and grittier. With intuitive timing the tenors attain concluding connection, showcasing rowdy theme variations on the 30-minute plus title track and polyphonic expressiveness on “Horus”. Overall, the result is head expanding not head banging.
Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG
This was recorded in a small home studio in Garden Cottage, Delbury Hall in June of 2014 and it features Evan Parker and Paul Dunmall on tenor saxes and Tony Bianco on drums. Although both Mr. Parker and Mr. Dunmall are considered to be amongst the titans of the tenor in the UK and love each other's , they have only recorded together on a handful of occasions previously besides their work with the London Jazz Composers Orchestra. British drummer Tony Bianco has worked with Dunmall on some two dozen discs previously as well as working with Dave Liebman, Elton Dean and Alex Von Schlippenbach.
Both saxists have been influenced greatly by John Coltrane, the legendary US sax legend who passed away in 1967. I love the way both Mr. Parker and Mr. Dunmall let loose and spew long spiraling lines together in cosmic colossal streams. Mr. Bianco sounds like the perfect drummer to balance both powerful players, navigating the rapids, increasing the flow/pulse faster or slower as the waves or currents increase. Bianco gets a solo section in the first long piece, "Extreme" and sounds wonderful by himself. There are also a few sax and drums duo sections which also stand out since both the saxist and drummer lock in together so well. These sections remind me of someone who surfs on a tidal wave. When the other sax comes in, the intensity increases and both saxes soar higher and higher still. For those of us who love when Trane and Pharoah take off for the stars, this disc provides that much needed medicine to help us all achieve nirvana.
Guillaume Bonhomme - Le son du grisli
La force de feu (Evan Parker et Paul Dunmall, tous deux au ténor) et de frappe (Tony Bianco, aussi efficient qu’un Levin avec lequel les saxophonistes ont ensemble plusieurs fois enregistré) est étourdissante. Qui, de l’aveu du batteur, fit dire à Parker après l’enregistrement de la première improvisation ce 27 juin 2014 : « That was extreme. »
Le titre était donc tout trouvé d’un disque qui jouerait de tensions et d’endurance, de connivences compulsives sur allant coltranien (Extreme) – s’ils sont deux, les saxophones y donnent l’impression d’être bien davantage – ou de vrilles et d’obstacles sur course ascensionnelle (Horus). Entre les deux grandes improvisations, l’interlude qu’est All Ways permet à Parker et Dunmall de croiser le fer comme pour ré-aiguiser leurs instruments. La réunion est rare, il ne s’agissait pas de laisser sa musique au hasard.
Glenn Astarita - All About Jazz
In the album notes, eminent drummer Tony Bianco advises that the various discourses of this program "were about the times we live in." It's a fitting correlation to the album moniker, featuring two legendary British improvisers, saxophonists Paul Dunmall and Evan Parker engaging in kinetic and at times, calamitous dialogues. Moreover, the Canadian label Red Toucan Records celebrates 20-years in business with its 50th release, fittingly provided by this powerhouse trio. The program sort of encapsulates the label's daring and leading-edge sphere of influence amid its diverse global roster of talent.
As one would anticipate, the two tenor sax titans go toe-to-toe and on the 32-minute opening track "Extreme," engage in an eddying and torrid series of interweaving contrasts where no stone is left unturned. Here and throughout, Bianco's flaming polyrhythmic patterns spawn a semblance of perhaps two or more drummers generating an extensive rhythmic plane. Indeed, the presentation boasts 'extreme' improvisational communications via the trio's relentless attack.
The musicians tone it down with probing lines and intimately crafted exchanges on the five and one-half minute "All Ways." Yet they rekindle the fire during the third and final extended work "Horus," where Bianco provides an effervescent backdrop with rolling toms flurries that assist with engineering a methodical upsurge. The saxophonists conjoin for more rapid-fire contrasts and create a colossal soundstage with weaving sentiment and flirtatious exchanges. They also duke it out with sweltering choruses and scalding call and response mechanisms. Ultimately, the instrumentalists' respective signature styles along with an energized game plan help ignite this raw and spirited improv fest into a festive no holds barred event.
The Squid's Ear - John Eyles
Saxophonists Paul Dunmall and Evan Parker and drummer Tony Bianco have history with one another. Dunmall and Bianco are "friends as well as colleagues", having played together since 1999, often as a duo but also in trios and quartets. Two of their duo recordings were tributes to John Coltrane, one being the subject of an appreciative email from Parker to them — an indication of common ground between the three. Parker and Dunmall have gigged and recorded together since the mid-nineties. Although Extremes is this trio's first album together, in the past there have been a couple of "near misses" employing the same format of two saxophones plus Bianco on drums : Utoma Trio (Emanem, 2000) combined Dunmall and Bianco with tenor saxophonist Simon Picard, while on Relevance (Red Toucan, 2010) Parker and Bianco were joined by saxophonist and flautist Dave Liebman. Yes, no doubt about it, Bianco, Dunmall and Parker all belong on the same Venn diagram and this trio had a sense of inevitability about it.
When Bianco and Dunmall phoned Parker and asked if he would record as a trio with them at Bianco's place, he replied that "it would be a nice way of spending an afternoon". Little did he know that the room they recorded in at Bianco's Garden Cottage was rather small. After the three of them had fitted into the room and recorded the album's thirty-two minute opening track, in late June 2014, Parker whispered to Bianco, "That was extreme." From that comment, the track and the entire album had their titles, "Extreme" and Extremes. Given the content of those thirty-two minutes, it is impossible to argue with Parker's judgment. Throughout, Dunmall and Parker both play most of the time, calling and responding to each other, sending and receiving simultaneously, driving one another forward. The end result is that their two separate voices intertwine and meld into one composite in which their individual contributions are just distinguishable. Bianco also plays throughout, providing propulsion and support, the glue that helps hold it all together. It is thrill-a-minute stuff that makes exciting listening, Extreme? Yes, Evan, it sure is but "intense" or "exhilarating" would have been just as right.
In comparison to the maelstrom of "Extreme", "All Ways" comes as light relief. Its five-and-a half minutes are taken at a more sedate pace while the playing is mellower and more intimate, allowing the saxophonists' phrases and exchanges to be lingered over and savoured. Given its location on the album, for the listener it functions like a sorbet that helps to clear the palate between two rich courses. The third and final track, the twenty-four minute "Horus", features extended solos from each of the saxophonists punctuated by shorter dialogue sections on which the two saxophonists exchange phrases but avoid going head-to-head as intensely as before. Again, the support from Bianco is perfectly judged. Altogether, this is an extremely impressive outing for all three players. Bravo!