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Michael Rosenstein

Tri-Borough Triptych is a bit of a connect-the-dots release comprised of three live duo performances recorded around London in 2012 and 2013. The first captures a performance by long-time cohorts Eddie Prévost and Evan Parker; the second, a duo between Prévost and Sebastian Lexer, a regular member of Prévost’s recent pool of collaborators; and the final, a first-time meeting between Parker and Lexer. In the liner notes to the CD, John Tilbury talks about a common thread of deep, committed listening that connects these three duo settings. And while that is true, the contrasts are illuminating.
Parker and Prévost have been at this for decades now and while they didn’t get to recording together until the ‘80s, their paths certainly crossed long before. From the very first sounds of their duo (recorded live at the 2012 Freedom of the City Festival) the two musicians are unmistakable as Parker’s bobbing and weaving tenor slowly gathers in whorls against Prévost’s shimmering bowed percussion. Each of these musicians have carved out their respective definitive vocabularies and what one hears across this 28-minute improvisation is the collective give-and-take the two explore. Parker’s more discursive approach ups the level of activity in the mix while Prévost countervails by drawing out the flow, introducing pools of stasis as the music unfolds. With musicians of lesser ability, that could lead to a disjointed dichotomy, but with these two, the result is a natural sense of ebb and flow.
Prévost’s duo with Sebastian Lexer operates in an entirely different manner. Lexer’s piano and signal processing combines the resonant strings and surfaces of a piano, close micing of the instrument and the room, and software which is used to process and refract the various inputs in real-time. For the first third of their duo, Lexer and Prevost focus in on the attack and decay of bowed percussion, shuddering piano strings, honing in on the physical properties of the sounds. Gradually, they introduce the attack of struck piano keys and the rattle of bells and gongs into the mix, but the balance never veers toward conversational interplay. Instead they allow the improvisations to sit in sections of density or scrim-like transparencies, building organically and then opening up while never rushing the transitions.
Parker’s meeting with Lexer is not nearly as seamless. Here, Parker’s labyrinthine soprano and Lexer’s treated piano and electronics seem to move beside each other, trying to find inroads but never quite doing so. Parker has extensive experience working with electronic processing and, at its most successful, saxophone and electronic extensions are subsumed into a single voice. With this session, there is a cautiousness that prevails as the two push at the edges, dialing up activity levels and then backing off, only to press on again. While there is a certain sense of exploratory risk-taking, the two never quite connect.

— Michael Rosenstein