A whirlpool of energy, this 77 minute-long collective improvisation was
recorded live at Jazz a Mulhouse festival in 1999. The title 2x3=5 is
explained by the fact that there were two trios there: Parker/Guy/Lytton
and Schlippenbach/Par- ker/Lovens. This performance "contains some of the
most majestic musical moments you are likely to hear." (Stuart Broomer)
velocity / porosity
The arithmetical title refers to the two trios that are conjoined in this
quintet, the Alexander von Schlippenbach trio of Evan Parker, Schlippenbach
and Paul Lovens and the Parker-Guy-Lytton trio. Almost like his tenor and
soprano, they are two fundamental units in Parker's musical life, groups in
which he has worked for decades, witness the 50th Birthday recording (Leo)
in which there is one CD with each formation. While both trios have
occasionally expanded in the past, adding distinguished fourth members like
George Lewis, Paul Rutherford, Alan Silva and Marilyn Crispell, the density
of this quintet, of its relationships, is something new. It's very much
like that unusual 5 in the title, both a multiple and something
Parker's later recordings have demonstrated an expanding interest in
mirror patterns, e.g. the double trio of the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble,
Toward the Margins and Drawn Inwards (on ECM), in which the
Parker-Guy-Lytton trio is expanded by first three electronic musicians and
then by another encapsulating sonic manipulator. That mirroring is apparent
in Parker's long partnership with Guy whose instrumental vocabulary so
closely resembles his own (hear the duet Obliquities on Maya). It's
apparent in the frequency with which he records in duo situations, including
the extraordinary recent series with the individual members of AMM, Eddie
Prévost, John Tilbury (both on Matchless) and Keith Rowe (on Potlatch).
That process is apparent in his solo music as well, in his longstanding
cultivation of overblown contrapuntal lines, even extending to the
overdubbing of Process & Reality (on FMP).
Here 5 stretches as high as the mathematics of Imaginary Values.
While the form may in part be about mirroring and a simultaneity of theme
and variation, however, it's also about dialogue, a central significance in
Parker's work. The present group is a beautiful collision, a series of
frictions that creates new sparks. Within the trio constructs, very
different kinds of interaction take place. Guy's tendency is close to
Parker's own, a linear continuum carried on at a pace that creates vertical
integration. Schlippenbach creates a broken field of pointillist events, a
harmonic shadow play that provides another organizational possibility. The
resultant tonal messages are sometimes modal but they're always mobile.
While Paul Lytton's rapid, fluid movement tends to coalesce with the others'
lines, Lovens uses sharp cymbal and snare events to break up time into
Different affinities and even philosophical contentions lead to
conversations around the room. The interplay of Schippenbach and Guy (the
most pianistic of bassists) is one of the delights here. In their ultimate
dialogue, Guy's bass strings begin by actually sounding like piano strings.
There's also another long-standing band buried in this group, the duo of
Paul Lovens and Paul Lytton, who have created a series of significant duet
recordings on their Po Torch label, beginning in 1977. Some striking new
bands emerge here as well, including the quartet when Parker is silent and
the trios formed by each of Schlippenbach and Guy with the two drummers.
Parker is, in a sense, both odd man out and the centre of attention.
This is (perhaps oddly, perhaps evenly) more about him than the two distinct
trios of the 50th Birthday Celebration. He's the saxophone colossus,
literally, his voice the central focus here fed by the dense dialogues of
the trio pairs and instrumental complementaries, the lines that join
Schlippenbach and Lovens, Guy and Lytton, Lytton and Lovens, and
Schlippenbach and Guy. There is a history for this kind of ensemble,
of course, but it may be sufficient to mention two. It begins crucially
with Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz, the 1960 double quartet with two drummers
that is his most extraordinary single statement, and it includes Coltrane's
use of two drummers at the end of 1965, Elvin Jones and Rashied Ali, for the
If jazz history were a continuum and not marketing device,
nationalist theme park or interrupted journey, then Parker would be
universally acknowledged in a line of tenor innovators that runs from
Hawkins to Young to Rollins to Coltrane to Ayler and Sanders (with
significant entries on Freeman, Webster, Getz, and Marsh). Much of the rest
of it, however worthy, is personal stylistic nicety, adroit vernacular
combinations, whether Trane/Rollins or Shepp/Ayler or Getz/ Trane or just
slow Ayler or Trane. But Parker has picked up the whole house of the tenor
and toted it down the road, lumbering or streaking (and somehow, sometimes,
simultaneously), with a voice as gruffly authoritative as Hawkins and a
musical mind as light-bathed as Ayler's or as comprehensive as Coltrane's.
And the longer he does it the more you hear tones of Getz and Young and
Marsh in his work, as if he is not travelling in just one direction but
spreading through the horn and its whole history.
If this music is very much about multiplication, it's also about
scale, and it may be inevitable that it result in a long and singular piece.
The 77 minute improvisation heard here is this group's statement, its
monumental discourse on itself and, likely, everything else. It is
collective improvisation stretched to such lengths that one expects a few
longueurs, but that's not the case. When I first listened to it, I checked
the CD timer at one point, so I could later revisit a particularly
magnificent onslaught by the full quintet. Expecting to find 35-40 minutes
elapsed, I was surprised to find it had reached the hour mark. So things
are happening with time here. Where one expects the crush inward, time
impacted (consider Ayler's surprisingly brief Spiritual Unity), it is
actually crushing out of itself. This 77 minute voyage may be the shortest
CD of free improvisation you've heard in a while.
That displacement of duration is matched by a corresponding
displacement of density, the music growing so dense that it becomes more
porous. There is something going on here well beyond the methodical, the
patterned, the measurable. It arises in the infinite and microscopic gaps
that arise within the lines and beats and combinations of the players like
multiple, vibrating, sieve-like screens who have to play this fast and
this much to leave so many holes for all the messages to get through.
It is this whirlpool of energy this atomic sieve that pulls
Parker into history and drives him through it, so that this contains some of
the most majestic musical moments you're likely to hear. There's a vital
tissue created in this performance, in the echoes, extensions and
transformations of individual lines and fresh openings in place of closures.
Like a fight in which a hockey game breaks out (old joke) or a sermon in
which an evangelist's head explodes (tabloid headline), this music is its
own. In part chance and expression, it's full-blown collective creation as