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Evan Parker, John Stevens – Corner to Corner and The Longest Night

"One of the most notable things Parker and Stevens have in common is their way of absorbing and transforming influences from jazz. Stevens has often paid tribute to the music of people such as Eddie Blackwell and Ornette Coleman. Parker has his roots in the records of Coltrane, Dolphy and others. They have drawn on other musics to create a new language which is very personal and not in any way parasitic upon its resources. Other contexts will find Parker playing tenor saxophone and Stevens a conventional kit. In the duo, Parker plays only soprano and Stevens' kit is diminutive - no bass drum, two hi-hats, a childs snare. Evendently they have mapped out a very special area - extremely concentrated and intimate." 

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John Stevens / percussion, cornet

Evan Parker / soprano saxophone

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Front cover illustration by Geoffrey Rigden, 1986. Corner to Corner recorded direct to U-Matic master using Schoeps and Neumann microphones on June 8 1993 at Angel Studio, London, by Kirsten Cowie. Longest Night recorded on the longest night of 1976 at Riverside Studios, London, by Adam Skeaping. 

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Evan Parker

"If you've ever been tempted by free improvisation, Parker is your gateway drug." - Stewart Lee 

Evan Parker has been a consistently innovative presence in British free music since the 1960s. Parker played with John Stevens in the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, experimenting with new kinds of group improvisation and held a long-standing partnership with guitarist Derek Bailey. The two formed the Music Improvisation Company and later Incus Records. He also has tight associations with European free improvisations - playing on Peter Brötzmann's legendary 'Machine Gun' session (1968), with Alexander Von Schlippenbach and Paul Lovens (A trio that continues to this day), Globe Unity Orchestra, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, and Barry Guy's London Jazz Composers Orchestra (LJCO). 

Though he has worked extensively in both large and small ensembles, Parker is perhaps best known for his solo soprano saxophone music, a singular body of work that in recent years has centred around his continuing exploration of techniques such as circular breathing, split tonguing, overblowing, multiphonics and cross-pattern fingering. These are technical devices, yet Parker's use of them is, he says, less analytical than intuitive; he has likened performing his solo work to entering a kind of trance-state. The resulting music is certainly hypnotic, an uninterrupted flow of snaky, densely-textured sound that Parker has described as "the illusion of polyphony". Many listeners have indeed found it hard to credit that one man can create such intricate, complex music in real time. 

John Stevens

John William Stevens (1940 - 1994) was an English drummer and a founding member of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble. Stevens played alongside a large number of prominent free improvisors in the SME, including Derek BaileyPeter KowaldJulie Tippetts and Robert Calvert, but from the mid-1970s, the make-up of the SME began to settle down to a regular group of Stevens, Nigel Coombes on violin, and Roger Smith on guitar. From 1983 Stevens was involved with Community Music, an organisation through which he took his form of music making to youth clubs, mental health institutions and other unusual places. Notes taken during these sessions were later turned into a book for the Open University called Search and Reflect (1985). SME played for its last time in 1994, when it included John Butcher. Stevens died later that year. Emanem boss Martin Davidson has written an appreciation of Stevens, which you can read here.