Flowing with the blowing

British saxophonist Evan Parker has never been one to compromise on his artistic credo.

Evan Parker 224.88 (photo credit: )
Evan Parker 224.88
(photo credit: )
It can't be an easy life where you set your stall so far from the mainstream track. But 64-year-old British saxophonist Evan Parker, who plays this week at Tel Aviv's Levontin 7 club, has never been one to compromise on his artistic credo. "The most uninteresting music in the world is the music that caters for general interest," says Parker from his holiday home in northern France. Naturally, when it comes to music that tends towards the more unfettered areas of artistic endeavor, there are always going to be a few people who don't get what Parker and his ilk are aiming for. "I don't think my music is uncommunicative," Parker says simply. "I have no problem communicating with my audiences. The only problem is with people who have stumbled into the gig unknowingly and come not knowing what to expect. All the others are happy with what they get from me." Parker's first musical love was anything but avant-garde, although the object of his admiration certainly pushed the envelope in terms of his energy output. "I went to my first show when I was 11-years-old," Parker, who was born in Bristol but moved to the London area when he was a small child, recalls. "It was a [popular skiffle singer-guitarist] Lonnie Donegan gig. Then I went to jazz jamborees with guys like [saxophonist] Ronnie Scott. It was all straight modern jazz." As he progressed through his teen-years, Parker began discovering ever more exploratory areas of the jazz domain. "I liked [saxophonist] Paul Desmond when I was 14 or 15. He had that sort of West Coast jazz thing about him which I liked back then. I also liked [Miles Davis records] Kind of Blue and Milestones and, when I was 18, I moved onto [seminal free jazz saxophonist] John Coltrane." Despite coming from a relative jazz backwater - at the time most British jazz musicians still played trad jazz, with only a handful like Scott and fellow saxophonist Tubby Hayes taking their lead from their modern jazz US counterparts - Parker was one of the lucky few who had access to all the jazz greats of the time. "My father was a pilot on [now defunct British airline] BOAC, so I used to go over to New York to catch jazz shows. That was very important for me." Parker tried to get in as many Coltrane shows as he could. "Trane was always so melodic. I started going to see him when he was on the cusp of the stage, when people started considering him to have gone too far. That was around 1961. But I never felt that. I've never separated the various periods of his work, like others do." While Coltrane could play an improvisational style that was then called "sheets of sound," he never seemed to lose touch with the melody, and even produced the odd ballad. Parker says he isn't averse to playing melodic material either. "I play improvised music and just follow the contours of a set as they develop. If a ballad comes up during that, that's OK. Whatever comes up is fine with me." Over the last 40 years or so, Parker has recorded prolifically with a large number of likeminded US musicians, including pianist Cecil Taylor, bass player William Parker, percussionist Hamid Drake and reedman Anthony Braxton, and some of the leaders of European free jazz scene such as German saxophonist Peter Brotzmann, British guitarist Derek Bailey, British drummer Tony Oxley and French bass player Joelle Leandre. Now approaching pensioner's age, Parker shows no signs of slowing down - at all. Evan Parker plays from September 4 to 6 with Spanish pianist Agusti Fernandez, Israeli saxophonist and Levontin 7 co-owner Assif Tsahar and various other local musicians. For more information call (03) 560-5084.