'Meetings with Remarkable Saxophonists'
Vol 1 Evan Parker:
Vol 2 John Butcher
Vol 3 Jason Yarde
It may seem a long way from the heart of jazz, but as you walk up Brick Lane in Spitalfields, east London, you pass through the shell of the old Truman, Hanbury and Buxton brewery, and underneath its chimney, past the beautifully sculpted motif of a menacing, rising eagle.
It was one of drummer Eddie Prevost’s Huguenot ancestors who created that, during an era when the descendants of the 17th-century French refugees of religious persecution were an essential part of east London life and inventors of its silk-weaving industry.
Prevost’s pride in this artistry carries through to his own life of drums.
Born in 1942 to a single mother in Bermondsey, and living in a house with “two books and a radio,” he found his first snares in the Boy Scouts, and during his time at secondary school in Deptford, in the years above and below him were two other boys who were to become among the finest of British jazz drummers: Trevor Tomkins in the year above and Jon Hiseman in the year below — an extraordinary percussive coincidence.
Prevost began in trad, moved with the jazz times into bebop, and over the succeeding decades became one of the most inventive and creative of experimental and free-playing of drummers, relentlessly innovative yet still full of swing and fire.
Since 2011 he has recorded on his own Matchless label a series of outstanding trio of albums, under the rubric of Meetings with Remarkable Saxophonists.
The first was All Told with arch-bassist John Edwards and the huge and brilliant breath of the Bristolian tenor saxophonist Evan Parker.
“I want life!” exclaims Prevost of his endless quest for improvisation in the album’s sleeve notes, and “a metamusical approach; one which revels in personal discovery and surprises as well as being sensitive and active towards incoming signals from others.”
It is a commentary and metaphor for art as life, and this record is full with it, the three musicians playing as an amalgam, unifying their powerful technical dexterity with an intense and reflective beauty, humanity and generosity towards each other and their listeners.
Edwards’s musical mastery is also in every way remarkable, as if he is the pulse of all that we hear, while Parker’s assertion of breath-with-end gives us a simile, an onomatopoeia of continuing life and hope enveloped in aural radiance.
As for Prevost, in his drums is an insistence of the real, of the touching, tapping, hammering, striking, pounding, ringing of the detail of work and action which is everywhere in our lives, in every second, awake or asleep, the sonic edge of production.
Like his Huguenot forebears, he works in a world of workshops: but his workshops are the workshops of drums.
Prevost’s 2012 album with the Brighton-born saxophonist John Butcher and French bassist Guillaume Viltard is called All But.
Ever since I heard Butcher play his Tarab Duets — inspired by musicians from Syria, Lebanon and Egypt — at the 2014 London Jazz Festival in a duo with drummer Mark Sanders, I have thought of Butcher as a hornman of the world, blowing ever outwards.
From England’s south coast to the pyramids and the Levant, his notes sing out.
Like Prevost, he is an enemy of “the curse of reiteration” and his notes travel as far as the world stretches to every new mile of soundscape, “all but” everywhere, for there is forever new soundland. Prevost, Butcher and Viltard find it all through this bursting album.
The reeds of the London/Caribbean saxophonist Jason Yarde always sound like bird song to me, the whole of nature in the breath of the human.
In his album with Prevost and bassist Oli Hayhurst, called All Together his remarkable song begins from two islands off two continents.
Hayhurst and Yarde had not met before this Waterloo studio session, but with Prevost’s combustive and coalescing energy between them, they play like brothers in sound, one from the Jamaican ethos of Jazz Warriors, the other from the Palestinian cry of Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble.
As you hear the world’s power of nature in these sounds, so you hear its diversity and massive range and the threesome play out of their skins, ever-imaginative in their palaver of roots and cultures in the real timbre of now-times.
For a person with no musicianship beyond listening, like me — except whistling in the street or tapping on my desk — these records are especially precious.
They bring the “remarkable” to the ordinary, the brilliant to the unschooled, as if — as we are — all comrade humans. As such they are the essence of true music.
Chris Searle — Morning Star 26th January, 2016