EVAN PARKER, STEVE BERESFORD,
JOHN EDWARDS & LOUIS MOHOLO

FOXES FOX

EMANEM 4035

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EVAN PARKER tenor & soprano saxophones
STEVE BERESFORD piano
JOHN EDWARDS double bass
LOUIS MOHOLO drums, cymbals, timpani, claves
 

1 - WOOD ON WOOD - JE LM - 3:55
2 - AMOEBIC MYSTERY - EP SB JE LM - 22:30
3 - RUNNING (WITH SCISSORS) - SB JE LM - 6:33
4 - BIRD WITH A SHELL - EP SB JE LM - 11:54
5 - SNAIL/KITE - SB JE - 4:17
6 - FOX'S FOX - EP LM - 3:53
7 - FOXES FOX - EP SB JE LM - 17:13
8 - TOAST SWEAT - SB LM - 3:22
9 - DOG BONE D FLAT - EP SB JE LM - 3:34

Digital recording and mix by STEVE LOWE
London (Gateway Studios) 1999 JULY 21
Total time 77:40

All previously unissued

 

Excerpts from sleeve notes:

This quartet came about by accident. Fairly early in 1998, the trio of Evan Parker, John Edwards and Louis Moholo was booked to play a gig at the Vortex in London. On the night, Edwards was very ill - he managed to get through the first set, but couldn't summon up the strength to do the second. So Parker asked Steve Beresford, who happened to be in the audience, to step in for the second half. This worked so well that Parker decided to put together a band containing all four musicians, which went on to play the Vortex twice later on that year, and once more in May of the following year. Each time, the results were exemplary, leaving both the musicians and audience on a most satisfactory high, so it was decided to take the group into the recording studio in order to capture some of the music, resulting in this CD.

But this quartet isn't really about an accidental sequence of events. The relationships in it go very deep, and its formation may well have come about anyway. Parker and Moholo go back to the late 1960s, when they were both part of some of Chris McGregor's bands. Their paths have crossed many times since then. Parker and Beresford first knew each other in the early 1970s, although they didn't make much music together for some years. (Parker and Beresford also happen to be two of Moholo's favourite record producers.) A few years ago, Parker found himself playing alongside John Edwards in an ad hoc group. He was so impressed with what he heard that he has asked Edwards to work with him on several of his subsequent gigs.

The recording session went without a hitch - feeling more like a gig than a recording - so this CD contains more intensity than is usually associated with studio performances. As well as capturing some quartet performances, it was also decided to record some shorter duo and trio pieces. One trio piece by Parker, Edwards and Moholo (which contains the only use of soprano saxophone on the date) spontaneously segued into a bass and percussion duo, which in turn became a full-blown quartet performance. This sequence can be heard as FOXES FOX.

All of the music performed at the short session is included on this CD, presented in the order it was recorded (except that the opening bass and percussion duo was the fifth piece recorded). It says much of both the individual musicians and the group, that absolutely no editing was utilised to produce a recording of such a consistently high standard.

MARTIN DAVIDSON (1999)

 

Excerpts from reviews:

"The remarkable series of reissues and first-time appearances for early British improvisation on Emanem sometimes overshadows Martin Davidson's knack for discovering/recording some of the finest examples of contemporary practice. FOXES FOX is no exception. To my ears Parker is at his most inventive in groups, as here, where the rules of the game are less clearly established. This leads to a greater exploration of new territories and less reiteration and embellishment of well-worn paths. This band seems initially a mismatched ensemble, representing as they do often widely differing parts of the free improvisation spectrum. This diversity is evident throughout the recording but is a strength rather than a weakness. Particularly pleasing to me is the restraint and clarity of Moholo's work; for someone who is used to hearing him at full pelt, this is a delightful surprise. Four quartet outings are interspersed with four duos and a delightful piano/bass/drums trio. This is improvisation with exceptional clarity of thought and intention and should be owned by anyone at all serious about the music."

BRUCE COATES - RUBBERNECK 2000

"Although Parker convened this quartet, it almost seems wrong to call this an Evan Parker album. The four musicians involved function so closely as equals that there is effectively no leader. The emphasis of the whole album is on tightly constructed ensemble music full of subtle colours, violent movement, sly wit, and ineffable gracefulness. Parker is a master - if not a founder - of this kind of selfless free improvisation. His keen little splinters of sound and rhythm wedge themselves into the matrix of the ensemble with a naturalness born of decades of experience. The full quartet improvisations are finely judged group interactions that are the result of close listening. They build in exactly calibrated passages of varying degrees of tension and release, density and space, agitation and calm. For instance Bird with a Shell begins with quiet piano plinks, talking-drum rumbles, arco bass sighs, and tenor moans, then flows and pools through passages of differing shape and duration before churning into white-water intensity. Tenor phrases catch themselves on jutting shards of piano and bass and shred apart while the tom-toms and bass thunder from below as the music explodes into an abrupt finale. On other tracks, members of the quartet pair off in smaller groupings, providing contrast and variety without sacrificing intensity. On Snail/Kite, Beresford pits ping-pong staccato lines against Edwards' slippery glissandos, but the contrasting parts meld into a whole and the music evolves through several more quirky turns before it concludes. Beresford is one wily player, always throwing out something provocative, but he can't shake Edwards, and the result is a consistently engaging duet. Edwards, the relative newcomer to the English free improv scene, interjects hard-edged, concise phrases throughout the album. On Wood on Wood his hammer blow notes stand up nicely to Moholo's skein of African free rhythms. It's damn near impossible to overstate how difficult this music is to play well and it's a measure of the greatness of these four musicians that they make it sound so easy."

ED HAZELL - SIGNAL TO NOISE 2000

"While there is not any new ground broken on FOXES FOX, this release will nonetheless please those who enjoy Evan Parker's unusual approach to the saxophone, and it as good a place as any for the novice to be introduced to his work. It is unfair, though, to emphasize the contributions of Parker to the exclusion of the quartet. While he is undoubtedly the dominant voice (even though he sits out on four of the shortest of the nine cuts), there are marvellous performances by everyone.

There is a concentrated and sophisticated air of focused energy throughout. Parker punches lots of short, abbreviated lines, mostly on tenor sax, that dazzle quietly with frenetic energy. Steve Beresford may not be well known for his piano playing, but here he proves his worth both as an interactive accompanist and a hard-core soloist. Emerging from the CT scholl of intensity, Beresford is particularly effective when Parker drops out and the pianist stretches. On Amoebic Mystery, his hands fly across the keyboards with unmitigated zeal, while he surprises with a sudden ending to his improvisation on Foxes Fox. John Edwards continues his march as an exciting up-and-coming bassist who resists the urge to dazzle, but whose individual sense of time and tone contribute mightily. Listen to the way in which he slowly builds a solo structure using open space on Foxes Fox. Louis Moholo listens to his colleagues and adds appropriate bite and inspiration. With its generous recording time, and solid playing, FOXES FOX is a valuable addition to the discography of each member of the quartet."

STEVE LOEWY - CADENCE 2000

"This release is nice in that it contains four quartet pieces totalling nearly an hour and also (in typically generous Emanem style) four duets and a trio which were recorded on the same day. Those pieces, only one of which includes Parker, provide a useful way into the styles of the individual musicians for those who are unfamiliar with some or all of them.

The saxophonist's will surely be the best known of the voices here anyway. He has several tones he can adopt in different settings, but only one that really suits this restless, jazzy setting; his twitchy, sometimes sinuously linear style, which largely dispenses with extended techniques (with one exception: his trademarked way of making a staccato note burst off the reed like a bubble in a hot mud pool). One can listen to him doing this all day and never get tired of it; he's a constant fountain of invention, an atonal Sonny Rollins unremittingly chasing down fresh ideas and refusing to repeat himself without good reason. Those who think that Parker's music is samey just aren't listening, and here, in such good company, he is able to fill his lungs with music and blow it out at the kind of pace he enjoys, fast but not furious, mercurial rather than bludgeoning.

Moholo's playing is hard to describe to someone who hasn't heard it. It seems as if all the beats have broken apart and are suspended in zero gravity, turning this way and that, occasionally colliding and exploding, often drifting about with a disconcerting combination of aimlessness and intense concentration. His chops are so developed that it's often hard to tell what he's doing to create the sounds coming out of the speakers, and within this weirdly dissociated world of splattering, tapping, swooshing sounds shifting without any long-term pulse or apparent logic, an enigmatic genius begins to emerge. For Moholo hits every accent and builds up every phrase with a precision that knocks your socks off.

Beresford is one of those pianists who is referred to most lazily as 'like Cecil Taylor'. This is because he plays with clusters, apparently random, quick-fire chromatic runs and a focus on rhythm rather than melody or harmony. In this context, however, he is nothing 'like Cecil Taylor'. Where the latter is a headstrong leader who blasts his way through and expects everyone else to keep up, Beresford here plays a clever supporting role, taking the odd solo but otherwise forming part of the rhythmic tidal wave that keeps the reedsman afloat. In that respect, this is a quite traditional session, Beresford very much part of the rhythm section and Parker taking the lead for the majority of the quartet's music.

Regular readers of (musings) will know that this writer concurs with the many eminent musicians who have called John Edwards because they believe him to be one of the finest bass players in London. His boundless imagination and uncommonly broad repertoire of styles may at times feel bitty, but the snapping ping of his pizzicato already feels like the genesis of an individual voice and, young as he is, he's achieved an enormous amount. His duet with Moholo has an assured unhurriedness that is extremely appealing. Something of a treat, then, the Parker quartet; a serious but fun, jazzy jam by musicians who know one another and, it seems, enjoy the company. "

RICHARD COCHRANE- MUSINGS - 2000

"Anyone weaned on the Impulse! or ESP catalogs will have an immediate comfort level with the proceedings on FOXES FOX. In recent years, Parker has gravitated towards creating sub-groupings of an ensemble to create multi-faceted programs, which is the case on FOXES FOX. The superstructure of the album consists of three lengthy quartet tracks (a short fourth track ends the album like the postscript of a long, tangent-filled letter), which allows for a wide range of interaction, spanning minute investigations of texture to bold, often Moholo-triggered, surges of energy. A Parker-less trio and four duets (of which only one features Parker, a simmering tenor-drums exchange) round out the program, allowing the edgy Edwards to demonstrate why he is the latest in-demand bassist on the London scene, and Beresford, a conceptualist equally at home with kitsch and noise, to reiterate his facility and responsiveness as a pianist. Of his two horns, the tenor is more emblematic of Parker’s free jazz gusto; he plays plenty of it on FOXES FOX, and the proceedings glow accordingly."

BILL SHOEMAKER - JAZZTIMES 2000

"This is a fine set of taut and alert spontaneous improvisation. The urgency and textual variety of the percussion constantly stirs the pot. Parker's squirming lines and staccato attack are both echoed and deftly manipulated by Beresford, and Edwards has emerged as one of the most striking double-bassists on the British scene for his rich sound and responsiveness. The mood of the material is highly varied for an on-the-spot improvisation too, with some pieces as collective conversations, some as eloquent percussion monologues, and some as delicately expressive as an orthodox jazz ballad."

JOHN FORDHAM - THE GUARDIAN 2000

"This latest release from one of improvised music's most prolific card carriers finds the British saxophonist in a quartet setting that is slightly more traditional than that which has conveyed much of his recent work. Consisting of Parker (surprisingly enough, sticking almost exclusively to tenor), Steve Beresford (piano), John Edwards (double bass) and Louis Moholo (drums), the FOXES FOX quartet negotiates three lengthy improvisations while the remainder of the disc is dedicated to small subgroupings amongst the musicians. The sessions opens with one of these fractions, Wood On Wood - a duet between Edwards and Moholo that combines the bassist's cunning array of bowed and strummed techniques with the drummer's sizzling chain reactions to great effect. Of the other quartet-in-microcosm selections, Running (With Scissors) and Fox's Fox are the most intriguing - the former featuring a trio of Beresford, Edwards and Moholo all resorting to the percussive devices offered by their respective instruments, and the latter showcasing a duo dialogue between Parker and Moholo in which Parker's breathy squalls of sound get caught up in Moholo's brushy rhythmic web. Yet it's the longer full-quartet pieces that capture the disc's most fully realised possibilities - Amoebic Mystery begins with disparate engagement centred around Parker's tone-splitting and Moholo's percussive recreation of the saxophonist's trademark honks, but eventually congeals in a four-sided convulsing mass of musical cell tissue; Bird With A Shell combines Parker's abstract melodicism with Edwards' swollen bowing, Moholo's snare spectrum and Beresford's high-end tinklings to achieve collective static; and the title piece constructs a sine-wave curvature out of the chirping steel mesh of Parker's soprano (significantly, its only appearance on the disc). The disc concludes with Dog Bone D Flat, a shorter quartet piece whose midtempo ruminations solidify at Moholo's behest until collectively falling apart into silence - marking the end of an excellent session. Especially for those who remain wary of Parker's forays into more electronics-based collaborations, Foxes Fox might be a necessary dose of free improvisation for the new year."

SCOTT HREHA - ONE FINAL NOTE -1999

"FOXES FOX is rendered enticing by the presence of the dynamic old Blue Notes/Brotherhood of Breath percussionist Louis Moholo, plus pianist Steve Beresford and bassist John Edwards, neither of whom are slouches by any means.

Parker sticks almost exclusively to tenor on this date, laying down his characteristically skittering, lowing, singing, meandering, chirruping, winding lines. There is a strong but little-remarked continuity and coherence to Parker's soloing - especially when he has a good long space in which to stretch out, as on the two longest pieces here, Amoebic Mystery and Foxes Fox. And his pianist is a real find. Crispell tended to punctuate and comment upon Parker's phrases, Gräwe to try to race and joust with him, and Schlippenbach to feed him phrases and be fed them in turn. Beresford is up to doing all those things, but is at once more self-effacing and more front-and-center. He finds the tonal roots and emanations of Parker's lines, accentuates them rhythmically, comments above or beneath them, and in all seems intent on creating a coherent piece of music in unity with the other musicians. When Parker lays out Beresford and the others engage in some sparkling, stardust interplay that may involve the inside of the piano.

Edwards can play as percussively as Parker's longtime partner Barry Guy, but he generally favors a thick, fat sound that supports the others. A long trio section of Amoebic Mystery has him, in conjunction with Moholo, laying down a spread rhythmic base that Beresford eventually sustains with pedal work. Moholo, meanwhile, is as multifaceted as ever: he can adapt to the freest rhythm and keep everything from falling apart - not that it's anywhere close to doing so in the capable hands of these four.

Evan Parker is releasing a great many recordings these days. While his approach is well-established at this point, he has a particular ability to adapt to his surroundings. As his fellows here are so capable, this disc is highly recommended."

ROBERT SPENCER - ALL ABOUT JAZZ 1999

"Right from Amoebic Mystery, the first recorded piece, the listener gets a palpable sense of the complicity existing among the players and the simple fun that must have been inhabiting the studio. If Parker is on one of his good days (yes, he can have bad ones), it is actually Beresford who steals the show on this record. His inventive playing dominates everything else.

So there we have a great encounter. Makes me wish I was living in London. This way I could see these guys play more often. And this is yet another beautiful production to add to Emanem's account, definitely THE reference in British free improv."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - DELIRE ACTUEL CFLX 1999

"Wood on Wood opens the CD with a playful bass and drums showcase -- a nice hors-d¹oeuvre. The big guns are taken out for Amoebic Mystery, the longest piece at 23 minutes. The listener can sense the complicity existing between the players. Beresford's playing is almost classical in nature, very cut-up, disjointed. He gives this music its originality. And when Moholo starts rumbling on his timpani a couple of minutes before the end, shivers run down the listener¹s spine. The Beresford/Edwards/Moholo trio Running (With Scissors) provide another tasty treat. More restrained than some of Parker's other recordings, FOXES FOX} contains very little uninspired moments. If one minute Parker sounds like he is going through the motions, the next Beresford kicks him where it counts. This is a good one."

FRANÇOIS COUTURE - ALL-MUSIC GUIDE 2001

"Don't expect Evan Parker to be doing any Christmas albums any time soon. This English subject has an insatiable appetite for challenging brands of improvisational music. His stripped-down ensembles have given Parker one of the most distinctive voices in modern improvisational music and made his multi-phonic saxophone rants familiar and welcome to his supporters and loathed by his detractors. Some of the cynics have complained of late of Parker's attention to the straight horn. Parker puts those grievances to rest, opening FOXES FOX, his latest for Martin Davidson's Emanem label, with one blistering succession for tenor outbursts after another. Accompanied by Steve Beresford on piano, John Edwards on bass, and Louis Moholo on drums, Parker suspends conventional wisdom and organically allows his quartet to construct Amoebic Mystery. With the stereotypical structures lowered, the ensemble collectively builds heated exchanges, particularly between Beresford and Parker. The group masterfully ebbs and flows the tension of the piece, yet still remains to be melodically coherent for the entire twenty-plus minute marathon. Fox's Fox is a duet between the leader and Moholo, with Parker confronting the percussionist with an unrelenting series of split notes and cascades, to which Moholo is able to respond back in admirable fashion. FOXES FOX is a complex and challenging record and anyone who puts up the 'x' dollars or 'y' pounds is certain to be pleased with their investment."

FRED JUNG - JAZZ WEEKLY 2000

 

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