AKA Evan Shaw Parker
Birthplace: Bristol, England
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Jazz Musician
Executive summary: Free improv saxophonist
Evan Parker was given his first exposure to jazz by his mother, an amateur pianist who played him the music of Fats Waller. He began to acquaint himself with the operation of the alto saxophone at age 14; by 16 he had switched his focus to soprano sax, having fallen under the influence of John Coltrane. His musical education benefitted from his father's position as a pilot with the British Overseas Airways Corporation, this fact allowing him a regular opportunity to travel to New York and watch some of his favorite jazz performers in person. Between 1958 and 1962, he attended Birmingham University, primarily to study botany, but his musical training was maintained as well.
By 1966 Parker was devoting himself entirely to his music. His interest was now leaning towards free improvisation, and after moving to London he became a member of The Spontaneous Music Ensemble alongside other improv luminaries such as guitarist Derek Bailey and drummer John Stevens. The Ensemble was boiled down to a core of Parker and Stevens by 1967 and the following year Parker himself moved on; his association with Stevens was far from over, however, and the two intermittently performed and recorded together up until a year before Steven's death in 1993. After leaving the Ensemble, the saxophonist began an extended period of collaboration with Bailey: co-founding both The Music Improvisation Company and the independent record label Incus with the guitarist, as well as frequently working with him in a duo context. During this time he also worked as a member of other Incus co-founder Tony Oxley's sextet.
In subsequent decades Bailey has remained active both as a solo performer and with a variety of duos, trios and large groups, such as Bailey's (now named simply) Company, Globe Unity Orchestra and The London Jazz Composers Orchestra. His duo with Paul Lytton, initiated in 1969, has been one of his most enduring collaborations, for a while venturing far into non-musical territory by making use of exotic and handmade devices; the expansion into a trio through the introduction of bassist Barry Guy in the 1980s brought the unit back into (somewhat) more conventional territory. Another long-standing association has been his membership in pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach's trio, which has remained steadfast since 1971.
Bailey's association with both Incus and Company came to an end in 1985, but his list of new collaborations has continued to grow to include artists from a ever-wider variety of backgrounds. A relatively recent development has been the creation of the Electro-Acoustic Ensemble in the 1990s, which expands on the Parker/Lytton/Guy trio with the addition of electronics and processing, and a significant portion of Parker's work has since moved into the electronic realm. His own label, Psi, was founded in 2001 as a means to make his numerous unreleased recordings publically available.
The Spontaneous Music Ensemble Saxophonist (1966-68)
The London Jazz Composers Orchestra Saxophonist
Globe Unity Orchestra Saxophonist
Company Saxophonist (1974-85)
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