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DIALOG with Evan Parker

Sergio Armaroli - vibraphone, tracks1,3,5,7, 9 & 11.

Evan Parker - soprano saxophone, tracks 2, 4, 6, 8 & 10.

Dialog: Two Rooms One Vibraphone 1 to 6 & Five Interludes differs, however, from the classical Greek idea of dialectics, that of thesis-antithesis-synthesis, in one respect. There is thesis, from Armaroli, and antithesis, from Parker, but it is a third party, the listener, who provides the synthesis. And there will be as many syntheses, and as much diversity among them, as there are those of us tuning in. (Chris May)

credits

released September 8, 2023

Two Rooms One Vibraphone 1 to 6, recorded October 15, 2022 by Raffaele Stefani at BlackStar-RecordingStudio, Milano; Interlude 1 to 5 recorded November 2, 2022 by Filipe Gomes at Arcobarco Studio, Ramsgate UK. Two Rooms One Vibraphone 1 to 6 composed by Sergio Armaroli. Interlude 1 to 5 composed by Evan Parker.

Album Mastering by Michael Brändli, Hardstudios AG.

Executive producer : Werner X. Uehlinger

(c) 2023 Ezz-Thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd., Basel, Switzerland

Labelcode ezz-thetics: LC 91771

furher information will follow: hathut.com

license

all rights reserved

LINER NOTES by Chris May

Sergio Armaroli and Evan Parker’s collaboration on Dialog: One Solo & Five Interludes was made possible by state-of-the-art 2022 digital technology, on which it was wholly reliant. But the structure of the music itself  - call and response a.k.a. antiphony - predates the digital era by an unknown number of millennia. Located in different studios hundreds of miles apart, on different days, the two players used file-sharing to engage in what is, if not the oldest form of music making, then almost certainly the second oldest.  One day in October 2022, Armaroli recorded five short and one longer solos in Milan, Italy and a little over two weeks later, Parker recorded his responses in Ramsgate, a town on England’s south coast. (“I only responded to the shorter solos,” says Parker. “The long one was so rich and full that I thought the best response was silence.”)

Surviving medieval manuscripts show call and response to be a defining feature of contemporary European liturgical music, albeit precomposed rather than, as here, entirely improvised. And in those cultures which possess oral rather than written musical archives, we can reasonably assume an even older provenance. In Africa, the cradle of humanity, call and response extends into prehistory and remains central to music making across the continent today. In the African diaspora, it figures large in gospel, blues, various forms of jazz, son, salsa, rumba and so forth. 

Karlheinz Stockhausen affirmed antiphony’s place in modern European symphonic music when he  made it a  feature of Gruppen, which he composed for three coactive orchestras. Stockhausen completed the monumental work in 1957.  The same year roots-modernist Charles Mingus wrote his miniature masterpiece “Original Faubus Fables,” in which, with call and response centre-stage, he eviscerated Arkansas governor Orval Faubus for his refusal to comply with the US Supreme Court’s ruling to desegregate the state’s schools. In perhaps its most powerful recorded version, on the album Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus, the instrumental call and response between Mingus’ bass and Eric Dolphy and Ted Curson’s (vocalized) horns is augmented by vocal exchanges between Mingus and drummer Dannie Richmond.

So call and response has thoroughbred global bloodlines. But it was not Armaroli and Parker’s first choice of format. Their original plan was to go into a recording studio together during a tour of Italy that Parker was scheduled to make in 2022, and lay down a set of freely improvised music in real time. As the start date of the tour approached, however, the plan fell apart because Parker became unable to leave Britain.

The two players considered several options. At the time of writing, software is close to being signed off which will overcome the problem of temporal latency and allow musicians in distant locations to record together in real time  without even micro-temporal lapses occurring between them. But the computer coding was still being finessed in October 2022. Nor was Parker prepared to overdub his improvisation over Armaroli’s solos. “The idea of clamping a pair of headphones on and pretending to be in the same room does not appeal to me,” says Parker. “Structurally, whatever I did would be on top of what was already there rather than in an interactive relationship with it.”

The format Armaroli and Parker ultimately arrived at was (vibraphone) call and (saxophone) response using file sharing. “I have never before used file sharing in such an organic way,” says Armaroli. “It has not been necessary. But the idea always precedes the possibility of concretely realizing a project. I mean, despite all negative circumstances it is possible to find a contact, a relationship, mediated first by the microphone and then by the distance which in listening is cancelled by presence. The result is a kind of a trans-improvisation that only the listener can create.”

“We were on two different planes of reality,” says Parker. “Different times, different places, brought together only as a final artefact. One person leads and another person follows, but it is still a conversation. It is like a Platonic exchange, in which Plato expounded a proposition and his pupils replied before he went on to the next proposition.” 

Dialog: One Solo & Five Interludes differs, however, from the classical Greek idea of dialectics,  that of thesis-antithesis-synthesis, in one respect. There is thesis, from Armaroli, and antithesis, from Parker, but it is a third party, the listener, who provides the synthesis. And there will be as many syntheses, and as much diversity among them, as there are those of us tuning in. 

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So that original duo can still seem like something of a reduction of the larger group, or at least as evoking it, i.e. not unlike Parker's recent release with Sergio Armaroli, Dialog (on Ezz-thetics), on which he responds (later, in solo) to Armaroli's vibraphone solos: That album illustrates harmonic context & line as sorts of inversions of each other

13 September 2023

In 2022, Italian-born vibraphonist Sergio Armaroli and British-born saxophonist Evan Parker were scheduled to tour Italy together, and go into a recording studio together to record a set of freely improvised music in real time. However, the plan fell apart because Parker became unable to leave Britain (maybe for Covid-related reasons?) Although Parker cancelled the tour and the recording session, Armaroli was keen to consider alternatives.

At the time, technology did not allow musicians in distant locations to record together in real time without lapses. Parker was not keen to overdub his improvisations over Armaroli solos. Nonetheless, the format they arrived at was vibraphone call and saxophone response using file sharing. In practice, this resulted in six separate solo Armaroli pieces, entitled "Two Rooms One Vibration #1 -#6," being recorded by Raffaele Stelani at Black Star Recording Studio, Milan, on October 15 2022; their lengths ranged from 3:20 to 26:49. A little over a fortnight later, on November 2, Parker's responses to five of Armaroli's pieces, entitled "Interlude 1 -5," were recorded by Filipe Gomes at Arcobarco Studio in Ramsgate on England's south coast; Parker did not respond to the longest Armaroli piece, saying that the best response to it was silence.

All six Armaroli pieces feature him alone, while all five Parker pieces only feature him; the two are never heard together as a duo. Each of the Parker pieces is shorter than the Armaroli piece it is responding to; for instance, "Two Rooms One Vibraphone #1" plays for 6:33 while "Interlude 1" plays for 1:50. The total playing time of the Parker pieces is just over twelve minutes while that of the Armaroli pieces is just under fifty-six. Maybe the titling of the Parker pieces as "interludes" acknowledges that they are considerably shorter than Armaroli's.

All of the vibraphonist's pieces demonstrate his mastery of his instrument, whether his playing sounds like accompaniment or front-line soloing. Excellent though they sound, the pieces could all have benefitted from the addition of a second player so that the two could interact. Parker has a long history of playing stunning unaccompanied saxophone solos, one which is continued here; heard back-to-back with the Armaroli pieces which inspired them, Parker's pieces sound as if they could have fitted in with Armaroli's.

Now that the Covid situation is better than in 2022, as a follow-up to Dialog maybe Armaroli and Parker can meet each other in a studio and play as a real duo in which they listen to each other and interact in real time. Until that day arrives, Dialog is a highly listenable album which does credit to both its participants.


The album Dialog starts with an interesting hypothesis. Can musicians who are not physically together carry on a musical conversation? According to the liner notes, it turns out soprano saxophonist Evan Parker was unable to leave the UK and join vibraphonist Sergio Armaroli in Milan for a recording session. Armaroli then presented the option of overdubbing to Parker. Parker rejected this format, and instead the duo decided to generate a long distance “call and response,” where Armaroli would record his solo contributions and Parker would respond with solos of his own.

So, can musicians who are not physically together conduct a musical conversation? To this, the answer is a qualified yes. While one can wonder what it would’ve been like to hear the two musicians together, the format permits each musician to demonstrate their chops and thematically engage each other. There are six solo vibraphone improvs and five solo soprano sax improvs (the sax improvs comprise only 12 of the approximately 68 minutes of recorded music – making Dialog primarily a solo vibraphone album interspersed with Parker-provided accents and highlights). Each solo covers abstract and diverse themes, but each contributes to a coherent whole.

Armaroli’s adventurous and diverse improvisations are substantial – with each improv adding a new twist to the album’s lexicon. No where is this more apparent than in “Two Rooms One Vibraphone #6,” a 27-minute masterpiece of art form construction and deconstruction, playfulness, and abstraction, running notes and silent pauses. There is within this one piece a universe of ideas, an exploration supported via Armaroli’s masterful technique. It’s almost the sonic equivalent of a burning bonfire, its random heat fading and growing until one center log falls inward creating a rush of embers and a roaring sound – as though the fire itself is happy that now it has fresh wood to consume. Likewise, Armaroli rolls and drolls and at times explodes. Contrast this effort with the decidedly minimalist approach Armaroli uses in “Two Rooms One Vibraphone #5” – with its soft underwater phrases and ballet-like pirouettes and rotations.

Parker chooses to respond to Armaroli’s inventive sound investigations with brief tone poems that highlight his glissando circular breathing- delivering a light touch of sonic effects that at times sound like two saxophones playing at once! The notes cascade like a waterfall, splashing joyfully onto a rock and hitting the surface with a light but pronounced splatter. There are also phrases that seem to accelerate like a rocket into the stratosphere.

This loose collaboration of inventive musical ideas gives Dialog a unique character – like call and response – but even more than that. Think Picasso and Matisse, delivering and sharing their works of art to challenge and stimulate each other. This is the gift of Armaroli and Parker in “Dialog” – a masterful exchange of two virtuosos.

By Don Phipps