Unity Variations is a live duo concert by British saxophonist Evan Parker and German pianist Georg Graewe that captures their excited activity in the outer regions of European jazz improvisation. Recorded at Chicago's Unity Temple during the Empty Bottle's 1998 Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music, this excellent performance showcases the very complementary interaction of the duo, the sort of interaction that often becomes a feat of close listening even while playing without pause. The opening number, "Unity Variation 1," is a lengthy (over 20 minutes) and seamless musical flow from Graewe and Parker. Although it is more notes than space, this improvisation refrains from becoming simply a barrage of notes, with its steady and slightly relaxed pace. The overall effect is that of a fluid tumbling of blocks in a lighthearted avalanche. Varying degrees of chunkiness (imagine a thin string with thick knots spaced out along it) are heard during the next piece, "Unity Variation 2," a 15-minute improvisation which is opened rather quietly by Graewe (Parker joins in a few minutes later). The closing track, "Unity Variation 4," is almost pastoral, with high and delicate runs, as well as impressive circular breathing from Parker.
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AllMusic Review by Joslyn Layne