Let’s get the facts out up front: Lines Burnt in Light is pure insane genius. Evan Parker, for decades a master of the saxophone in various contexts, steps up about three levels on his new solo disc. As the inaugural release on his new Psi label, this is going to be a hard act to follow. Parker insistently pursues a high-level spiritual energy on these three extended improvisations for solo soprano saxophone. And he does not relent. Lines Burnt in Light documents a live performance with no effects or overdubs (apart from the rich acoustics of London’s St. Michael and All Angels Church).
Parker wastes no time firing up his engines during the first piece, recorded before the audience’s arrival. His playing operates at many levels. At its most literal, the music cycles through a long series of short, high loops. As time moves on, these cycles drift fluidly through musical space, acquiring new elements, leaping up and down, and defining new tonalities. But this music is clearly about much more than the literal. Parker colors his fundamentals with an inexhaustible array of overtones, and it’s at this level that these improvisations really come alive. Each note turns furry, spikey, or rounded, depending on how the saxophonist chooses to shape it. The high notes sail through the air with birdlike delicacy, chirps and whistles all about, as if a flock of songbirds have alighted on the microphone.
As the recording proceeds, Parker meets his audience head-on with a similar urgency. While some listeners may find the sheer density and intesity of Lines Burnt in Light daunting, those with open ears and hearts can look forward to over an hour of pure invention and delicacy. The saxophonist’s pursuit lies far beyond technical fluency (which he happens to have in great abundance), much as Coltrane aimed for a higher realm. It’s this process of transcendence which lifts Lines Burnt in Light to a spectacular zenith of light and sound. Maybe it’s the glow of the full moon outside as I listen, but this music provides express transportation to another world (allaboutjazz).