Henry Kuntz's review of QUINTET/SEXTET

Otomo Yoshihide / Sachiko M / Evan Parker / John Edwards / Tony Marsh / John Butcher

Two pioneers and masters of Japanese onkyo meet a multi-generational mix of British pioneers and masters of free improvisation. Recorded live at London's Cafe OTO at the end of a week-long residency of the Japanese players, the collaborative musical meeting is fresh and inspired. The recording stands as a finely-honed classic of classically approached free improvisation: the players dance and flow smoothly and effortlessly with and around the sounds of their partners.

Of the two onkyo players, Sachiko M stays the sonic course with high-pitched broken sine waves emitted from her no-samples sampler - but she chooses carefully when and where to insert them.
Similarly, Otomo includes the static-y crackles and pops from his turntable. But he is also right in the forefront of the musical mix with his electric guitar. If at moments his playing calls to mind Derek Bailey, Joe Morris, Henry Kaiser or others - not to mention his own work with his New Jazz Quartets and Orchestras - these are but indications of the broad scope of his personal sound world. He works from extremes of electronic inflection, stretching the sound of his guitar in every direction with the infusion of thick sonic clusters, dynamic out-of-phase feints, fuzzy noise, wavy drones, and loosely compacted single note runs.
With all that, he establishes a workable link between the onkyo sound world and the singular instrumental approaches of the British improvisers.

The British players, for their part, are at the top of their game. Parker leads the way on the Quintet side with a particularly energized and earnest performance from his sophisticated post-jazz tenor. But his playing turns on a dime to meet or match the directional input of any of the other musicians.

On the Sextet side, the interaction between him and fellow saxophonist John Butcher is fascinating. To open, the two face off on soprano. Butcher, working from his finely crafted range of pure sounds, gravitates quickly toward the onkyo sonic palette, while Parker - with a nod to the flinty tone of his work with the Music Improvisation Company - weaves microtonally through the mix.
Following a subtle switch by both men to tenor, Butcher steps out and up into the post-Blue Note jazz world. Parker takes up the challenge and, for a moment, you might think you are listening to Joe Henderson and Pharoah Sanders from something out of Alice Coltrane's Ptah the El Daoud.

On both sides of the disc, John Edwards' big stringy bass helps paste all these sounds together; as a soloist, he quickly engages and segues easily into and out of the large group sections.

This is the first time I've heard drummer Tony Marsh, and I'm impressed with the way he holds and intensifies the musical experience, adding or subtracting textural breadth and depth to the ensemble. He works from a largely dry palette, tympani-like at times, with contrasting cymbal thrashes.
This is mesmerizing highly-distilled organic improvised music.

© Henry Kuntz