Saxophonists Evan Parker and Joe McPhee occupy parallel universes. Each is a hero to free-jazz diehards who value players who can stay the course for decades without fatigue. But England’s Parker was a kingpin of Euro-improvising from the moment the 60s revolution touched down across the Atlantic, while McPhee was perpetually out of the loop, at home in Poughkeepsie when he wasn’t working with French and Swiss musicians on the continent. (Parker’s cross-channel contacts were apt to be German or Dutch.) Ships in the night and all that until 1995, when they performed together in a reed trio with France’s Daunik Lazro and McPhee did a guest shot on a Parker trio CD. In 1998, after McPhee began enjoying some belated recognition, they recorded Chicago Tenor Duets (Okkadisc), a fine outing that confirmed the attraction of opposites. Parker’s tenor creates turbulent surfaces and a Pollocky paint-spatter texture. McPhee’s approach is more lyrical and linear–his lines grow gradually thicker or thinner, like threads of Miro’s black paint. Solo, Parker habitually investigates a narrow sonic terrain, but he doesn’t mind defeating that self-imposed stereotype. In duo with McPhee (or Steve Lacy) he’s oddly accommodating, playing to his partner’s strengths as melodist and spontaneous harmonist. Parker and McPhee revel in the close-interval interplay that showcases saxophones’ overtones; even when the sound gets raggedy, they track each other closely. The duo’s free Saturday matinee downtown is spillover from the Empty Bottle’s seventh annual Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music, where McPhee performs Thursday (in a quartet with Daniele D’Agaro) and Friday (in a trio with Ken Vandermark on reeds and Paul Lytton on drums); Parker plays the Bottle Saturday night in a trio with Lytton and pianist Alex von Schlippenbach (a Monk expert who’ll play Monk tunes solo on Friday night). They get together Saturday, April 26, at 2 PM, in the Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Christian Him, Michael Jackson.