Published Feb 17, 2009Toronto's Association of Improvising Musicians (AIM Toronto) has been bringing in artists to perform with Toronto improvisers for the past five years. In that time this has brought international and national recognition to Toronto's vibrant, diverse and highly skilled improvising scene as well as give audiences a chance to witness Toronto players perform with senior artists. The recent Interface with UK saxophone legend, Evan Parker, proved to be one of the most successful in AIM Toronto's history, with sold-out SRO shows for all three nights.
The programming contextualized Parker's phenomenal musicality and technique in some fairly radical situations that proved challenging and inspired, not only to the musicians involved but to the audiences and Parker as well. The series consisted of meetings between Parker and a brass quartet made up of trumpet, flugelhorn, French horn and trombone, a duo of electronics and drum, a string quartet and a saxophone trio, three vocalists and a duo of acoustic bass and drum kit and a surprise addition of electric guitar with preparations and FX and an ancient Japanese reed instrument called a shô.
Each performance provided the audience with fresh insight, not only into Parker's ability to adapt effortlessly to each situation, but also to the possibilities of sound as his tenor and soprano sax were framed by the highly engaged and skilled improvising of the Toronto musicians. While the consistently high quality of the performances made it difficult to pick which were the best, there were a few that provided some undeniable high points.
The saxophone quartet featuring Kyle Brenders, Evan Shaw and Rich Underhill breathed fire and consistently pushed Parker to some of his most inspired playing while the brass quartet of Nick Buligan, Jim Lewis, Nicole Rampersaud and Doug Tielli combined sinuous and focused harmonic invention as well as some well-executed moments of pops, gurgles and breath sounds.
The electronic drums and sampling of John Kamevaar provided some of the most radical sonic backdrops to the acoustics of the sax while also playing an ingenious foil to Tomasz Krakowiak's sensitive shadings as he scraped and rubbed various metal and skin surfaces on his single drum frame. The series was capped off with a more familiar approach, with Parker dancing back and forth to the seasoned and imaginative work of Wes Neal on acoustic bass and Joe Sorbara on drum kit.
A more successful three days of great music would be hard to come up with.