Evan Parker, The Transatlantic Art Ensemble

Evan Parker and Roscoe Mitchell co-founded the Transatlantic Art Ensemble in 2004. The ensemble’s account of Mitchell’s “Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3” was issued by ECM to critical acclaim (including an album-of-the-year award from France’s Jazzman). “Boustrophedon”, featuring Evan Parker’s music, is the companion volume. Like nothing else in Parker’s discography it features him as composer-conductor, guiding the transatlantic instrumental forces into chamber orchestral territory “somewhere between Gil Evans and Luigi Nono”. There is also, amongst many highlights, some transcendent saxophone playing – from both Parker and Mitchell. Recorded live in Munich.

Featured Artists Recorded

September 2004, Muffathalle, Munich

Original Release Date


  • 1Overture
    (Evan Parker)
  • 2Furrow 1
    (Evan Parker)
  • 3Furrow 2
    (Evan Parker)
  • 4Furrow 3
    (Evan Parker)
  • 5Furrow 4
    (Evan Parker)
  • 6Furrow 5
    (Evan Parker)
  • 7Furrow 6
    (Evan Parker)
  • 8Finale
    (Evan Parker)
Parker wanted to locate a space between Gil Evans and Luigi Nono. The way the music travels from string-dominated sections with finely etched textures and broad, irregular intervals to ones with propulsive rhythms and multihued brass and woodwind passages, he makes good on his intentions. … This record, like its companion, goes a long way toward reconciling contemporary jazz and classical music without selling either short.
Bill Meyer, DownBeat
Drawing its inspiration from the ancient art of manuscript writing (where lines would run from left to right, then right to left, as if furrowing a field) together with a nod of appreciation to the writings of novelist/playwright Samuel Beckett and composer/conductor/music writer Nicolas Slonimsky, this involving and intricately constructed suite of music sets Parker’s role as a modern composer to the fore. Boustrophodon is also a giant step forward for jazz music that underlines the fact that it is a genre of music without limitations.
Edwin Pouncey, Jazzwise
Pianist Craig Taborn establishes an atmosphere of delicacy at the opening, and long, quiet passages of string improvising are warmed by mellow clarinet, jazzy alto sax from Anders Svanoe, Corey Wilkes’ blustery trumpet, and surging drumming from Paul Lytton and Tani Tabbal. Parker and Mitchell follow each other on the climactic solos, with the improvisers chasing each other in cadenzas near the close. It’s a triumph for Parker, who’s known a few in his revolutionary career.
John Fordham, The Guardian
Boustrophedon is the companion volume to Roscoe Mitchell’s impressive Composition/Improvisation Nos 1, 2 & 3, released last year. … Parker’s vision is an avant knees-up with jazz and folk elements to the fore. Shimmering soundscapes and orchestral slabs are the setting for knockabout improvisations with bucolic flute, Craig Taborn’s spindly piano and the leader’s fluttering sax.
Mike Hobart, Financial Times
Recorded live in Munich, Evan Parker’s “Boustrophedon” is the companion volume to Roscoe Mitchell’s highly-acclaimed “Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2 & 3” and features an identical line-up, the Transatlantic Art Ensemble assembled by the two great saxophonists.

Unlike any other album in Evan Parker’s vast discography (he has appeared on more than 250 discs, mostly for small labels specialized in improvisation) “Boustrophedon” uniquely emphasises his compositional capacity, and presents a music that opens some new windows. Each of the piece’s six “Furrows” (the title ‘Boustrophedon’ translates as ‘like an ox plowing’) features a combination of detailed written music for the players, specific performance instructions and ‘open’ areas. What does it sound like? The composer at one point spoke of locating a space “between Gil Evans and Luigi Nono”, but there is more to the story. “I wanted to use some of the big chords that Slonimsky talks about: all these very big all-interval structures.” Conventional tonality meanwhile is at a premium, sometimes referencing “East European folk music with a pedal tone and a variety of scales based on that tone.” Juxtaposing the complex and then archaic-sounding, Parker avoids “the middle ground of diatonic harmony,” with frequently electrifying results.

The album’s liner notes map out the central event in the work: The brief overture with ensemble and the foregrounded drums of Tani Tabbal and Paul Lytton leads swiftly to the first of the “Furrows”, in each of which a player meets a ‘transatlantic’ counterpart. “Furrow 1” is an encounter for John Rangecroft’s flute and the piano of Craig Taborn (which has a particularly important role to play as the work develops). “Furrow 2” is occupied by Phil Wachsmann and Nils Bultmann, engaged in quite beautiful violin-viola dialogues which spill over into “Furrow 3”, where Marcio Mattos (Brazilian-born string player long a British resident) and Anders Svanoe (American saxophonist with Norwegian roots) are featured, Anders’s solo lifted up by dense ensemble agitations. “Furrow 4” is for John Rangecroft’s clarinet and Corey Wilkes’s trumpet, and bassists Jaribu Shahid and Barry Guy compare dynamic meditations in “Furrow 5” - at first in isolation then against increasingly turbulent group playing. The emotionally-powerful “Furrow 6” features solos from first Evan Parker and then Roscoe Mitchell, tumultuously leading us toward a finale set up by massive chords and capped with rapid fire cadenzas. We hear, in succession, Jaribu Shahid, Neil Metcalfe, Anders Svanoe, Philipp Wachsmann, Craig Taborn, Marcio Mattos, Nils Bultmann, John Rangecroft, Corey Wilkes, Barry Guy, and Roscoe Mitchell. The atmospheric climates in which these episodes are developed through the Furrows and the Finale, and the richness and strangeness of the chamber ensemble textures that envelop them, are frequently as remarkable as the solos themselves.