Evan Parker & Ned Rothenberg | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Evan Parker & Ned Rothenberg 

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EVAN PARKER & NED ROTHENBERG

In most of the situations he plays in, British saxophone giant Evan Parker stands out like a nickel in a pile of pennies. His approach is practically a name brand, his circular breathing technique almost a genre unto itself--and a slew of recent recordings show his range: On Foxes Fox (Emanem) he locks minds with pianist Steve Beresford, bassist John Edwards, and drummer Louis Moholo in swift, muscular on-the-fly interactions; on After Appleby (Leo), in a group with the same instrumentation (played by Marilyn Crispell, Barry Guy, and Paul Lytton) our bearded hero gets gorgeously rhapsodic, if no less kinetic. On the two albums he's made with his Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, Toward the Margins and the new Drawn Inward (both just released, strangely, on ECM), Parker, Guy, Lytton, and violinist Phil Wachsmann improvise cumulous swirls of sound that get processed by electronicists Lawrence Casserley, Walter Prati, and Marco Vecchi and then folded back into the din--yet the saxist's grainy, concentrated melodic tendrils and patiently etched arcs are immediately recognizable. For his Chicago performance this week, Parker is paired with reedist Ned Rothenberg, his partner from 1997's Monkey Puzzle (Leo) and a true kindred spirit. Rothenberg is a member of woodwind trio New Winds, leads his own mathematical jazz-funk group Double Band, and has made music that borrows from the unique singing style of the Inuits. He and Parker have both worked in duos with the great Tuvan vocalist Sainkho Namtchylak, and their sax vocabularies share many sounds and shapes. The instrumentation on Monkey Puzzle makes it easy to distinguish who's doing what--Parker's on soprano and tenor sax, Rothenberg on bass clarinet and alto sax--but the way each anticipates the other's moves is uncanny. It's a cliche, but the precise entanglement of their lines is nothing less than a tapestry of sound. Wednesday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

PETER MARGASAK

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