Dortmund Variations is a recording of a 2010 improvised concert between Evan Parker and Georg Graewe in Dortmund, Germany. In three spontaneous compositions, simply titled Dortmund Variation 1, II, and III, Parker and Graewe’s music-making is a series of immaculately-conceived preternatural confluences. Their communication at a level as if they had been duet partners for as long as, say, the Modern Jazz or the Dave Brubeck Quartets in their heydays. Parker and Graewe have indeed played together over the course of 20 years but as Bill Shoemaker points out in his liner notes this is only their third encounter, which only serves to highlight their extrasensory perception as musicians.
The speed at which ideas pass between between Parker and Graewe might be likened to neurotransmission, seemingly instantaneous and as autonomic as the beat of the heart. To lift just one finger and let it descend on a designated piano key with requisite strength to get the ordained sound requires millions of nearly instantaneous electro-pulses. Giving the breath, in coordination with the life function of inhaling oxygen, that vibrates the reed within the context of a given constriction of the throat and a decided shape of the oral cavity, and in conjuncture with pressing just one key on the saxophone, requires a similar amount of energy passing from the brain along the neural pathways to the musculature.
Autonomic should not be confused with automatic, for the individual artistry and the collective action of these musicians is based on extemporaneity. I don’t detect any tail wagging a dog, meaning one musician breaks into another cadence, or suddenly decelerates leaving the other to decide where to go with the new idea. Any changes in momentum, shape and color happen as if charted, certainly not the case unless one considers the contradictory idea of two different organisms each going their own way while creating a united structure of music.
The recording accurately captures the sonic signatures Evan Parker and Georg Graewe. On initial listening I found the CD to be psycho-acoustically off-balance: the saxophone plays as if it were recorded as playing between the piano microphones. This is partially true, Evan Parker’s playing position being close to the curvature of the frame. Perhaps this setup enhances the feeling that two three-dimensional organisms were playing in concomitance. How the recorded sound was organized drifted into obscurity with concentration on this sterling example of contemporary music-making.
nuscope CD 1026: www.nuscoperec.com