Friday, March 05, 2021

Alexander Hawkins - Togetherness Music (Intakt Records, 2021)

Pianist and composer Alexander Hawkins celebrated his fortieth birthday by developing a six part suite combining the contemporary classical Riot Ensemble with the free jazz sensibility of himself and the legendary saxophonist Evan Parker. The opening track, "Indistinguishable From Magic," doesn't pull any punches, featuring Evan Parker playing soprano saxophone in a thrilling example of circular breathing. He shows extraordinary control of his instrument and sounds like he is in a state of grace of continual invention until long tones of swooping string envelop him, bringing the performance to a close. "Sea No Shore" has percussion instruments entering carefully, building and tumbling with trumpet coming out to join, with the brass and drums developing a free and loose improvisation. There is a string heavy opening to "Ensemble Equals Together" flowing over the soprano saxophone and piano that are playing below. Strings ebb and flow as the other instruments play muted as if caught in their web before the whole ensemble becomes faster and more abstract at the end. "Leaving the Classroom of a Beloved Teacher" returns to piano and strong elastic bass both plucked and bowed, building a strong improvisation. Trumpet peeks in about halfway through looking for purchase, along with the drums as the music grows in power and intensity, folding in strings as it lurches toward cacophony. The concluding track, "Optimism of the Will," end the album on a very high note, as the bass and drums get a subtle groove going out of the gate. As the trumpet enters the drums become more defined and muscular and piano chords resonate. Parker returns with some more explosive soprano saxophone, which combines with epic drums and bass to create a fiery improvisation. Interactions between improvisers and classical musicians can run into trouble, but this one works quite well, as strings and electronics coexist with improvising piano and some remarkable saxophone playing to good effect. Togetherness Music - amazon.com

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