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Cello Unwrapped

Travel to Kings Place

Sound Inventor at 70

How are the plans for your 70th-birthday celebration shaping up?

The idea for the evening started, as always, with the choice of fellow musicians: seventeen so far, all diverse geniuses, and stalwarts of the London free improvising scene. I've worked in smaller and larger combinations with almost all of them over the years. There are existing playing relationships in smaller groups, but also the potential for completely new subgroupings, some solid ground and some outer space. Perhaps the most long-standing colleague is violinist Phil Wachsmann. We worked with Derek Bailey in the final concerts by the music Improvisation Company. And guitarist John Russell, who I first knew at the Little Theatre Club as a young man with very adventurous taste in music – a long time ago!

What will be the format for the evening?
There's an array of small group possibilities for the first half. The regular trio I have with John Edwards and John Russell, the trio of string players Alison Blunt, Benedict Taylor and David Leahy would be obvious choices, but there are many more possibilities. The second half will be for the full group. I am working on a sequence of events to underpin that.

Django Bates is there too?
Django's an absolute genius. He has an astonishing attention to detail and speed of reaction. Our diaries rarely coincide so I'm looking forward to working with him again.

In the UK we just see a fraction of what you do, tell us about the rest.
John Zorn invited me to do a week at The Stone in New York at the end of September. While I was there I also recorded in duo with Sylvie Courvoisier for Relative Pitch, made a quartet record with John Escreet and gave a concert at Roulette with a new US-based ElectroAcoustic Septet. Since then I've been travelling in Europe with Paul Lovens and Alexander von Schlippenbach. We recorded in Zurich for Intakt in the middle of the trio tour. October and November I was travelling – Warsaw with Barry Guy, Skopje with ZlatkoKaučič... busy times.

And how do you feel about being 70?
I've still got to get used to the fact that I'm goingto be 70. Music is a place where age barriers don't exist. I find trumpeter Peter Evans and I laugh at the same things, we're irreverent about the same things. Music makes you ask some straightforward, unspoken questions of yourself and of others: 'What can you do? What can you bring to it?' – it's a case of thinking, 'I know why I'm here, and as long as you've got some idea of why you're here...' That's the way improvising musicians can work with each other. You bump into each other, re-connect quickly. You talk about friends and colleagues in common, what you're doing next... gigs to avoid. Behind it all is the shared passion.

Your solo playing has been described as bringing a 'unique sonic language to the world'. Do you still make new discoveries?
Thank you. I like to have a space with an inspiring and supportive acoustic, a church or a church-like space. What I do in that context is more about intuition than analysis. There are the things you try to control, with new combinations of reed behaviour and embouchure and cross-fingerings. But that's the starting-point. The complexity of the partials and the overtones, and the resonance will always be unique in the moment, and in the particular acoustic of the performance space. The saxophone is such a rich and flexible acoustic source, I will certainly run out of time before I discover all its possibilities.

Evan Parker: 70th Special Birthday Celebration | 5 April

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Photo credit: Caroline Forbes

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