Free improv neophytes are often impressed by the resourcefulness and invention necessary to carry a collective improvisation for 75 minutes straight. But seasoned fans of the genre know it is tougher to perform several short pieces than a single extended one, simply because the hardest aspect of free improvisation is how you begin and end. After two albums of rather long pieces, Evan Parker & September Winds deliberately opted for the hardest path. They entered the studio on October 3, 2004, meaning to keep it short. The result is a collection of 23 pieces, most of them under three minutes, a couple stretching over four. In order to make things more interesting -- that is, slightly easier and more stimulating -- the quintet used some preconceived materials. Sequences, words, and musical concepts often served as a first impulse for the music, although they remain largely hidden, except for the two "No MPs!," performed without mouth pieces. Short Stories is a lively album where intensity in conciseness is the main focus. A two-minute slot jump-starts interactions and keeps every one ultra-attentive to the cue that will close the proceedings. Alder Brook was full of large-scale group effects. This one thrives on vivid exchanges between Peter A. Schmid and Reto Senn, the combined fast action of Evan Parker and Jürg Solothurnmann, and Hans Anliker's aptitude to act as a pivot between these two pairs. Pieces like "Heavy Metal I-III," the two "Taragotic," and the two "Foghorns" all display endearing levels of playfulness. The "Anton au Gare" series, based on predetermined sequences of arrangements, provides an occasion for jazzier references, often verging on instant jazz composition (a distinct theme arises from "Anton au Gare "). Short Stories may not be as gripping as the group's previous efforts, but it shows a desire for change, which is always healthy in this field. It also provides an easier entry point into the group's output.
AllMusic Review by François Couture