February 1, 2011 6:20 pm

Evan Parker & Hans Koller/ Evan Parker and Stan & Clark Tracey, The Vortex, London

 
 Evan Parker

The midpoint of Evan Parker’s five-concert residency featured the obliquely understated charms of the Hans Koller Big Band. With the trombone section underpinned by a French horn, the complex harmonies and overlapping riffs resonated with cool-school modernism’s lower-register warmth and was loaded with late 1950s references – Herbie Nicholls, Jimmy Giuffre and Lennie Tristano were all covered at this gig.

Evan Parker provided the highlight moments on soprano, guesting as featured saxophonist for the last three numbers of the first set. Parker’s spiralling stream of microtones stretched Steve Lacy’s waltz “Blink” into the abstract and developed the haunting, delicately poised folk-rooted theme of “Cry Want” into blues-laced lyricism and edge-of-harmony awareness.

The second set presented fresh scores to feature the band’s solo strength. Trombonist Mark Nightingale’s understated ballad and saxophonists Julian Siegel and Finn Peters stood out, but the tempi were a bit samey and the set lacked the exhilaration of the first.

No such problems on the final night of Evan Parker’s curatorial stint. Pianist Stan Tracey and his son Clark opened with a beautifully crafted duo set – amazingly a first public outing – in which the drummer’s confident rhythms and sensitive textures amplified and supported Tracey senior’s timely discords, plateaux of riffs and oblique runs. The pianist’s tone is rich in history, and his timing so acute that stray offbeats have the impetus of an entire brass section.

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The Traceys developed themes from their lovely, recently released album Sound Check, but the following piano and sax duet with Parker was a through-improvised series of perfectly formed miniatures.

Tracey is rooted in tonality and rhythmically robust, but leaves space to accommodate Parker’s arsenal of continuous breathing and oblique, rarely travelled arpeggios. Whisper-quiet lower-register saxophone notes swelled gently, scatters of notes cohered into magical dance or sustained romance.

The final set, a trio with drummer Clark, sustained this extraordinary mutual accord with rich sonorities, emotional contrasts and a compulsive inner logic.

Their detailed three-way dialogue, ripened by long experience, was a compelling finale to Parker’s sure-footed curatorship of more than half a century and several generations of British jazz modernism.

The Vortex, London

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