logo   Chicago Solo (OD12017)
Musicians Evan Parker — tenor saxophone
Cover and Artwork cover

Cover art: Ben Portis
Graphic design: Louise Molnar


1. Chicago Solo [12] (1:44) (MPEG2)
2. Chicago Solo [3] (4:40)
3. Chicago Solo [4] for Chris McGregor (3:18)
4. Chicago Solo [5] (6:56)
5. Chicago Solo [6] (3:20)
6. Chicago Solo [7] (5:13)
7. Chicago Solo [8] for Lee Konitz (2:57)
8. Chicago Solo [9] (2:15) (MPEG2)
9. Chicago Solo [10] (4:46)
10. Chicago Solo [11] for Mr. Braxton (1:44)
11. Chicago Solo [13] (4:04)
12. Chicago Solo [14] (5:26)
13. Chicago Solo [15] (4:23)
14. Chicago Solo [16] for George Lewis (8:34)
total time: 59:24

All compositions by Evan Parker (PRS/MCPS/PAMIRA)

Recording Info

Recorded at Airwave Studios, Chicago, IL, November 18, 1995

Produced by: Evan Parker & John Corbett
Executive Producer: Bruno Johnson
Engineer: John McCortney

Liner Notes

Since 1975, Evan Parker has made eight records of solo soprano saxophone music. Chicago Solo is his first unaccompanied tenor record.

Reviews **** (4 stars)

Remarkably, after eight discs of solo soprano saxophone, this is the first time Parker has committed himself to a full programme of tenor playing. The results are, as one would expect by this juncture, extraordinary, music of intense focus and a fearsome weight and intensity of tone. Four of the tracks are dedications to musicians Parker has worked with or been associated with over the years — Chris McGregor, Lee Konitz, trombonist George Lewis and “Mr” Braxton. No evident thematic connection to any of them, though the tiny Braxton tribute includes elements that are reminiscent of the American. Probably redundant at this point in time to start taxonimizing the differences between Parker’s soprano and tenor work. The range of overtones is perhaps more restricted, the line more direct, the pace and delivery of ideas more measured. No mistaking, though, the integrity of the performances or the identity of the performer.

— Richard Cook & Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, fifth edition

Since 1973 and the recording of Saxophone Solos, the solo soprano has been one of Parker’s fundamental operating modes. With it, he has produced some of the most remarkable improvised solo music of the period. This is the first recorded example of Parker on unaccompanied tenor.

In some ways, he has returned to the approach of the first soprano recordings. The pieces are short, with nothing of the scale of “The Snake Decides” or “Monoceros” or the pieces of Conic Sections, but there’s nothing of a sense of technical exercises about them. Each is deliberate and complete, but they’re often sufficiently closely related to suggest a cycle, even a cycle of cycles. Each piece is usually built around a kernel phrase or pattern that is varied incrementally, whether through rhythmic development, register shifts, gradual expansion, or the use of multiphonics and circular breathing. The sometimes gauzy harmonics of the piece for Konitz stand out, as does the immediate form of the piece for Chris McGregor, though these may be qualities we assign the unfamiliar because of the recognizable signs attached to them. At times the rapid cycling through notes, as in “5” and “9”, suggests a detemporalized state in which all the notes are present in any interval of hearing, a sense of meditative repose that is elsewhere achieved with the briefest and calmest means, as in the opening “12”. “10” is a remarkable play with reed pops that sounds like an ensemble of elastic bands, while “6” begins with splitting tonal identities. Parker’s interest in the multiple voice, whether it’s high reflection of a lower one, or another line that seems to be tongued inside a repetition of a prior one, is never merely effect. You come away with a sense that sometimes something can only be said twice or thrice, and that Parker’s approach arises out of a special necessity of musical discourse. This complexity is accompanied by a sense of restraint, as if the the tenor has been quieted to reveal its inner voices. The blues, too, is an ambivalent discourse, and it’s fitting that Parker’s grainy, vocal tenor sound and scalar approach should be recorded in Chicago. On several pieces, like “13”, that blues connection is palpable, the CD’s title as much a musical, or emotional, key as a geographic one.

Often too subtle for words, this is recommended both to those long familiar with Parker’s work and those just getting accquainted.

- Stuart Broomer, Cadence, September 1997

Solo saxophone improvisation is hardly the revolutionary statement that it was back when Coleman Hawkins fired off his “Picasso” or when Mr. Braxton unleashed For Alto. Today, solo saxophone improv albums nearly constitute a subgenre in themselves, replete with their own set of standards and customs. Despite the creep toward conventionalism, the art of solitary sax improv remains alluring, offering one of the truest test-grounds of real-time human creativity, wherein brave souls, naked and alone, fill up vacuums with spontaneous spirit-creation. Evan Parker has certainly done his part, both in populating the ranks of the subgenre as well as depopulating vacuums. He has recorded an astounding eight full length explorations of solo soprano saxophone since 1975, including the classic Monoceros. Chicago Solo is his ninth and most recent solo outing, and the only way in which it really breaks rank is by virtue of the fact that it is Parker’s first on the non-straight horn, the tenor saxophone. Mr. Parker, of course, is one of the preeminent European/British free improvisers, playing with Peter Brötzmann, Derek Bailey, Tony Oxley, John Stevens, and everyone else you could imagine with a hankering for meat pies and unfettered art production. So it’s little surprise, then, that you can physically feel the weight of history floating through the concentrated confessions that make up this CD. There are traces of the fierce high energy blowing that made up Machine Gun as well as moments of the airy, abstract lightness that was the Spontaneous Music Ensemble’s cup of tea. But instead of segregating these tendencies into solidly distinguishable chunks, Parker plays through them all concurrently, wrapping history in, upon, and around itself so tightly that a new timeline emerges. What this timeline delivers is a series of distinctly modern vignettes wherein high-register overblowing barely rises above a whisper, cascading flurries of notes dance out simple melodies, and fragile cobwebs of breath fall like anvils on concrete. It is a mixing of musical metaphors that is not so much a testament to some post-modern sensibility as it is a testament to a man who has fully assimilated his own musical history. As such, the dedications to Braxton, Lee Konitz, and George Lewis are merely red herrings; the real focus of this music is Evan Parker, his history, and the continued reconfiguration and extension of that history. The fact that this is carried through an idiom of solo saxophone improvisation that Evan Parker has almost singlehandedly defined over the course of the past twenty-odd years simply makes it all the more devastating.

- Chris Crowson
Tuba Frenzy #4 (1998)