Stan Tracey albums
Suspensions and Anticipations Stan Tracey & Evan Parker
Suspensions and Anticipations
psi 04.02


Notes: © Marc Chénard - The Squid's Ear

Free improvising, as Derek Bailey once put it, is not a style but a practice or, better still, a whole series of them. While some of these may appear totally unrelated to others, they all share one thing in common: they encompass a range of skills acquired through experience. And when one considers the two seasoned pros featured in this recording, no one could ever doubt their credentials.
Yet, some may be surprised to have a 76-year-old pianist, best known for his long tenure as house pianist at London’s Ronnie Scott’s Club, paired with the recently fêted 60 year-old saxophonist par excellence of the British free music scene. But there they are, together for the first time: the consummate mainstreamer Stan Tracey and the improv hero himself, Evan Parker. With about 80 years of professional experience between them, it would be hard to imagine them not being able to make some meaningful music together. In fact, it only takes a single listen to this side to realize that there is more than some meaningful music taking place here, but an artistic statement of the highest order.
Throughout the eight duos, as well as the two solo piano tracks and the single tenor piece, the ideas flow effortlessly: To use Parker’s own metaphor on what sucessful improvising should be (alluded to in a interview published in The Squid's Ear last year), here are two craftsmen juggling ideas without letting any of them fall to the ground. The pianist, for his part, is exemplary in the way he keeps finding fresh turns of phrase. What’s more, he never falls back on licks of any kind, as if he checked all his standard jazz vocabulary at the door. He does more than just provide a chordal backdrop to the reedman’s flights of fancy, but manages to push the music in other directions, directions to which the saxophonist brilliantly responds. In do doing, the split second timing between them is superlative, at times telepathic. Parker is only heard on tenor; as usual, there’s no mistaking his sound and ligthening-fast articulation (including some transferring of his soprano playing to the bigger horn), but there is an added element of melodicism, an undercurrent of lyricism rarely heard in his playing.
Indeed, this record is a fine balancing act (like juggling, once again) between instinct and design, reliance on the self and the other, doing things not only for their own sake, but saying plenty of remarkable things throughout the 62-minute disc of concentrated music making. To any nonbelievers in the practice of free improvisation, this side provides convincing evidence that it, too, can be very successful. What more can be said, but simply to concur with Parker’s own assessment, heard in the seconds following the final flurry of action with which the record closes: “Amazing!”


Review: © Bill Smith

One could choose specific tracks from this CD, although this is not necessary, as they all contain the quality and brilliance one would expect from these two master musicians. Born two decades apart - Stan Tracey (1926), Evan Parker (1944) - they represent the pinnacle of distinct English disciplines. Tracey, a mainstay of the modern jazz scene, influenced by the music of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk, was throughout the sixties the resident pianist at the legendary Ronnie Scott club, as well as leading influential bands that ranged from intimate modern jazz ensembles to large orchestras. Parker, as is known to readers of this journal, is the most important saxophonist to emerge in the current music, introducing numerous concepts to the ever evolving "new music" forms. Both are well represented on recordings, but never together as in this dazzling pairing. Eight of the eleven pieces are duets, two being piano solos and one solo tenor saxophone. With the exception of the trilogy of "New Fork (for Newk)", the solo tenor piece, minimally referencing his prodigious multi-phonic circular breathing techniques, segueing into a duet of the title piece and on into the solo piano of "Special Purpose", they are, as the subtitle suggests, a sequence of free improvisations. Although much of the material could be considered melodious in a traditional way, the development of the pieces establish a continuum, moving from one presented drama to another; a series of eloquent conversations rather than a story form. They contain imaginings of "balladic" and "swing" characteristics, with Tracey's thoughtful piano work and Parker's delicious tone and control, creating pointillistic scenarios of great subtlety with occasional brawny overtones. Each obviously influencing the other's route. The state of being kept in suspense, and the action of looking forward, clearly illustrated.
A superb recording of two unique musicians.

Album Reviews:
Free improvising, as Derek Bailey once put it, is not a style but a practice or, better still, a whole series of them. While some of these may appear totally unrelated to others, they all share one thing in common: they encompass a range of skills acquired through experience. And when one considers the two seasoned pros featured in this recording, no one could ever doubt their credentials. Yet, some may be surprised to have a 76-year-old pianist, best known for his long tenure as house pianist at London’s Ronnie Scott’s Club, paired with the recently fêted 60 year-old saxophonist par excellence of the British free music scene.

But there they are, together for the first time: the consummate mainstreamer Stan Tracey and the improv hero himself, Evan Parker. With about 80 years of professional experience between them, it would be hard to imagine them not being able to make some meaningful music together. In fact, it only takes a single listen to this side to realize that there is more than some meaningful music taking place here, but an artistic statement of the highest order.

Throughout the eight duos, as well as the two solo piano tracks and the single tenor piece, the ideas flow effortlessly: To use Parker’s own metaphor on what sucessful improvising should be (alluded to in a interview published in The Squid's Ear last year), here are two craftsmen juggling ideas without letting any of them fall to the ground.

The pianist, for his part, is exemplary in the way he keeps finding fresh turns of phrase. What’s more, he never falls back on licks of any kind, as if he checked all his standard jazz vocabulary at the door. He does more than just provide a chordal backdrop to the reedman’s flights of fancy, but manages to push the music in other directions, directions to which the saxophonist brilliantly responds. In do doing, the split second timing between them is superlative, at times telepathic. Parker is only heard on tenor; as usual, there’s no mistaking his sound and ligthening-fast articulation (including some transferring of his soprano playing to the bigger horn), but there is an added element of melodicism, an undercurrent of lyricism rarely heard in his playing. Indeed, this record is a fine balancing act (like juggling, once again) between instinct and design, reliance on the self and the other, doing things not only for their own sake, but saying plenty of remarkable things throughout the 62-minute disc of concentrated music making. To any nonbelievers in the practice of free improvisation, this side provides convincing evidence that it, too, can be very successful. What more can be said, but simply to concur with Parker’s own assessment, heard in the seconds following the final flurry of action with which the record closes: “Amazing!”

Marc Chénard - The Squid's Ear
One could choose specific tracks from this CD, although this is not necessary, as they all contain the quality and brilliance one would expect from these two master musicians. Born two decades apart - Stan Tracey (1926), Evan Parker (1944) - they represent the pinnacle of distinct English disciplines. Tracey, a mainstay of the modern jazz scene, influenced by the music of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk, was throughout the sixties the resident pianist at the legendary Ronnie Scott club, as well as leading influential bands that ranged from intimate modern jazz ensembles to large orchestras. Parker, as is known to readers of this journal, is the most important saxophonist to emerge in the current music, introducing numerous concepts to the ever evolving "new music" forms. Both are well represented on recordings, but never together as in this dazzling pairing.

Eight of the eleven pieces are duets, two being piano solos and one solo tenor saxophone. With the exception of the trilogy of "New Fork (for Newk)", the solo tenor piece, minimally referencing his prodigious multi-phonic circular breathing techniques, segueing into a duet of the title piece and on into the solo piano of "Special Purpose", they are, as the subtitle suggests, a sequence of free improvisations.

Although much of the material could be considered melodious in a traditional way, the development of the pieces establish a continuum, moving from one presented drama to another; a series of eloquent conversations rather than a story form. They contain imaginings of "balladic" and "swing" characteristics, with Tracey's thoughtful piano work and Parker's delicious tone and control, creating pointillistic scenarios of great subtlety with occasional brawny overtones. Each obviously influencing the other's route. The state of being kept in suspense, and the action of looking forward, clearly illustrated.

A superb recording of two unique musicians.

Bill Smith at Vancouver Jazz
On the surface, this seems like an unlikely collaboration; a meeting between the moderately mainstream doyen of British jazz and one of the free improvisation scene's founding fathers. Complicated swing meets rigorously uncompromising abstraction. But Parker has always been visibly influenced by the powers of the tenor saxophone tradition, and Tracey has a history of open-minded exploration, making albums with Keith Tippett and Mike Osborne back in the early 1970s. In that same decade, Parker used to play in Tracey's Tentacles, and there have been regular reunions at the Appleby Jazz Festival. In 2002, Lol Coxhill's 70th birthday gig at London's 100 Club provided the setting for an inspirational duet which led directly to the recording of this album in the following year. Parker has released it on his own label, a venture whose catalogue is rapidly growing. The two players have a particular empathy, following a scampering trail as they fill in each other's pauses, answering each other's questions. Altering the speed of attack as they go, Evan and Stan throw ideas at each other from parallel speeding trains. Their agreed approach doesn't disallow spontaneous melody or rhythmic progression, the pair persistently building up great knots of energy. Parker concentrates on the tenor throughout, tentatively spiking out terrain on "A Nice Slice", his moleskin tone rubbing its nap the wrong way. Tracey hammers stalactite statements on "Nicely Placed", as Parker staggers around, dropping and swooping. Aside from the duo bouts, there are two solo piano tracks and one saxophone feature. Parker's "New Fork" explores circular territory that he normally negotiates on the soprano horn, making sideline squeaks and tubular honks. The duo exchange exceedingly low rumblings on "Kite", composing on the spot as Parker's expostulations are answered by Tracey's splintered hits and runs. "An ending!" they laugh together, as "Maggot" grinds to a sudden halt. Surely not, as this engaging partnership certainly seems destined to continue... Reviewer: Martin Longley bbc.co.uk