Evan Parker / Stan Tracey

Suspensions & Anticipations

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Looking for an unlikely pair? Here you have it: Stan Tracey, a pianist on his way to be an octogenarian, with a track record that makes the British mainstream jazz community proud, teaming up with Evan Parker, one of the best and most extreme free improvisers of his generation (which is a generation younger than Tracey), adored in avant-garde circles but still largely ignored by the jazz community at large. And whose fans are in for the biggest surprise? Tracey's, it seems. Recorded at Gateway Studios on September 28, 2003, Suspensions and Anticipations consists of 11 free improvisations. Parker makes a conscious effort to smooth out his rougher edges: he sticks to the tenor saxophone, which has a warmer sound than the soprano, his other weapon of choice. He also remains more tonal than usual and sticks to rather conventional techniques, resorting to his famous circular breathing technique only sporadically (as in "Kite," one of the disc's highlights). All these efforts are not a way for Parker to "dumb it down," but a search for a different approach, in the spirit of adaptation to a new context. And yet, it is Tracey's playing that gets the biggest facelift. The pianist literally goes out of his way and proves himself to be a talented improviser, if only attached to the jazz idiom. Don't expect melodies, chord changes, or stable rhythms: this is a free improv date, as announced on the back of the CD box. And the pair interact well, hitting peaks in "Nicely Placed," the title track, and the aforementioned "Kite." The set includes one solo sax piece and two solo piano pieces, probably as a way to introduce each player to the other's audience. As interesting as this album is, it feels somewhat tentative, especially when compared to the superior live set Crevulations, recorded a few months later.

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