Review: Evan Parker – Vaincu. Va! Live At The Western Front 1978

So many aspects of Vaincu. Va! Live At The Western Front 1978 evoke total disbelief. That the work is the product of a solo musician – as in one person, as in one human being subjected to the same respiratory and dexterous limits as all of us; that the work is the product of a saxophone, the very same instrument whose warmth and sleekness is something of an atmospheric lubricant in the world of cocktail bar jazz; that the work was performed in 1978, when its disturbing intensity would cause even today’s most hardened audiences to feel as though the corporeal world was beginning to bend and cave into a wormhole of cyclical sound. There is nothing to grip on to – each note evaporates into the next, existing as a nanosecond spasm in between two more, existing as a point in time where the depression of one particular button meets Parker’s ever-flowing stream of circular breathing and then vanishes before it can even be acknowledged by either performer or listener.

It’s like a solitary, spinning object – convulsing and writhing as a ball of tiny breath fragments, like a twirling gemstone glinting with woodwind overtone. There are a few brief moments during the first half of Vaincu. Va! where the noise stops; one imagines colour and oxygen rushing back into Parker’s face through tiny fractures in the saxophone continuum, resuming too quick for normality to re-register. Even when large blots of quiet start to appear during the second half, it isn’t enough to comprehension to settle in, and I can’t shake the image of two saxophonists on stage – one forcing out vicious squawks of overtone, the other tumbling smoothly through trails of saxophone butter. When the piece finally comes to a close, a full 34 minutes after it begins, the subsequent applause feels like falling face-first into the sand after days (or was it weeks? Years?) spent being tossed around by the sea, rendered numb to one’s own sense of orientation and any concept of the solid object.