Evan Parker / Alex von Schlippenbach / Paul Lytton America 2003

The two discs of this set were recorded a fortnight apart during a hectic North American tour, and you can still feel the buzz. Both performances start calmly enough, but within minutes they’ve reached whirlwind speed — Lytton’s drumming in particular is almost absurdly accelerated. Nowadays Parker sometimes seems trapped by his own mastery, reproducing virtuosic, self-contained arabesques verbatim from album to album. Here, the saxophonist’s playing is more varied and unexpected, occasionally lyrical but more often gruff and urgent (check out the hoarse climax to "Down With All Those Who Do Not Believe In Us,” for instance); even the obligatory soprano set piece, "The Breath of Coldness,” offers a few twists once past the business-as-usual opening. Schlippenbach keeps the music perpetually within sight of jazz idioms — he shoves quartile chords around like a hyperactive Mal Waldron — but he also likes to lace the piano’s interior with bric-a-brac, eliciting from it an impressive array of clatterings, splats and buzzes. There are calm moments on America 2003, even a track called "Perhaps This Was His Chance” offering a weird mix of gamelan, John Cage and Meade Lux Lewis — but what gives the music its excitement is the sense that it’s always a step away from another insanely accelerated spin-cycle. It’s scary enough how fast and dense this stuff gets; even scarier, it’s delivered so lucidly you can actually follow it even at warp speed. (Psi)