Evan Parker & Paul Lytton

Biography Evan Parker & Paul Lytton

Evan Parker
was born in Bristol in 1944 and began to play the saxophone at the age of 14. Initially he played alto and was an admirer of Paul Desmond; by 1960 he had switched to tenor and soprano, following the example of John Coltrane, a major influence who, he would later say, determined "my choice of everything". In 1962 he went to Birmingham University to study botany but a trip to New York, where he heard the Cecil Taylor trio (with Jimmy Lyons and Sunny Murray), prompted a change of mind. What he heard was "music of a strength and intensity to mark me for life ... l came back with my academic ambitions in tatters and a desperate dream of a life playing that kind of music - 'free jazz' they called it then."

Parker stayed in Birmingham for a time, often playing with pianist Howard Riley. In 1966 he moved to London, became a frequent visitor to the Little Theatre Club, centre of the city's emerging free jazz scene, and was soon invited by drummer John Stevens to join the innovative Spontaneous Music Ensemble which was experimenting with new kinds of group improvisation. Parker's first issued recording was SME's 1968 Karyobin, with a line-up of Parker, Stevens, Derek Bailey, Dave Holland and Kenny Wheeler. Parker remained in SME through various fluctuating line-ups - at one point it comprised a duo of Stevens and himself - but the late 1960s also saw him involved in a number of other fruitful associations.

He began a long-standing partnership with guitarist Bailey, with whom he formed the Music Improvisation Company and, in 1970, co-founded Incus Records. (Tony Oxley, in whose sextet Parker was then playing, was a third co-founder; Parker left Incus in the mid-1980s.) Another important connection was with the bassist Peter Kowald who introduced Parker to the German free jazz scene. This led to him playing on Peter Brötzmann's 1968 Machine Gun, Manfred Schoof's 1969 European Echoes and, in 1970, joining pianist Alex von Schlippenbach and percussionist Paul Lovens in the former's trio, of which he is still a member: their recordings include Pakistani Pomade, Three Nails Left, Detto Fra Di Noi, Elf Bagatellen and Physics.

Parker pursued other European links, too, playing in the Pierre Favre Quartet (with Kowald and Swiss pianist Irene Schweizer) and in the Dutch Instant Composers Pool of Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink. The different approaches to free jazz he encountered proved both a challenging and a rewarding experience. He later recalled that the German musicians favoured a "robust, energy-based thing, not to do with delicacy or detailed listening but to do with a kind of spirit-raising, a shamanistic intensity. And l had to find a way of surviving in the heat of that atmosphere ... But after a while those contexts became more interchangeable and more people were involved in the interactions, so all kinds of hybrid musics came out, all kinds of combinations of styles."

A vital catalyst for these interactions were the large ensembles in which Parker participated in the 1970s: Schlippenbach's Globe Unity Orchestra, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO) and occasional big bands led by Kenny Wheeler. In the late 70s Parker also worked for a time in Wheeler's small group, recording Around Six and, in 1980, he formed his own trio with Guy and LJCO percussionist Paul Lytton (with whom he had already been working in a duo for nearly a decade). This group, together with the Schlippenbach trio, remains one of Parker's top musical priorities: their recordings include Tracks, Atlanta, Imaginary Values, Breaths and Heartbeats, The Redwood Sessions and At the Vortex. In 1980, Parker directed an Improvisers Symposium in Pisa and, in 1981, he organised a special project at London's Actual Festival. By the end of the 1980s he had played in most European countries and had made various tours to the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. ln 1990, following the death of Chris McGregor, he was instrumental in organising various tributes to the pianist and his fellow Blue Notes; these included two discs by the Dedication Orchestra, Spirits Rejoice and lxesa.

Paul Lytton
Percussionist Paul Lytton is both an inventive, textural drummer in the tradition of European free jazz, and a pioneer in electronic sound processing and the use of homemade instruments of his own invention. Lytton made his first noteworthy appearances on the British creative music scene in the late '60s, and his influence -- particularly in live electronics -- can still be observed in the experimentation of a new generation of improvisers in the 21st century.

Born in London in 1947, Lytton studied drums privately from the age of 16 and played dance music before his introduction to jazz. He performed with many of the London jazz establishment from 1966 to 1969 while also taking tabla lessons from P.R. Desai. Around 1969, Lytton began his initial forays into freely improvised music, forming a duo with the soon-to-be legendary multi-reedist Evan Parker, who played not only saxophones but also various homemade instruments including the "lyttonophone." Bassist Barry Guy eventually linked up with Parker and Lytton, and the Evan Parker Trio was born. Lytton was a founding member of the London Musicians' Cooperative and collaborated with various other artists on the London improvisers' scene from 1970 until 1975. He also developed a strong relationship with Aachen-based percussionist Paul Lovens, and in 1976 helped found the Aachen Musicians' Cooperative.

Lytton has performed in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Japan as a soloist and in various combinations with other improvising musicians. He has continued to work with Parker and Guy, serving as a member of Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, the London Jazz Composers' Orchestra, and the King Übü Örchestrü. Lytton appears on countless recordings on various labels including Island, Incus, Po Torch, FMP, Intakt, ECM, Leo, CIMP, and Rastacan. In 1999, Lytton toured in the United States with Chicago saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark and bassist Kent Kessler; he appears with Vandermark on the duo CD English Suites, released that year on Wobbly Rail. During the 1990s, Lytton also performed on two Evan Parker Trio CDs featuring guest pianist Marilyn Crispell: Natives and Aliens in 1996 and After Appleby in 1999 (both on the Leo label).

The drummer then joined Crispell for several albums on Intakt, including 2001's Odyssey and 2004's Ithaca. Also in 2004, he appeared with Evan Parker and Alexander von Schlippenbach on America 2003. Lytton next joined Parker for several more highly adventurous productions, including 2007's Topos and 2010's Scenes in the House of Music. He also collaborated with trumpeter Nate Wooley on a handful of albums, including 2009's The Seven Storey Mountain, 2010's Creak Above 33, and 2012's The Nows. In 2016, Lytton reunited his trio with Crispell and Barry Guy for Deep Memory. (Dave Lynch, AMG)

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