Peter Evans at Lévy Gorvy – The Meeting of Edgard Varèse and Charlie Parker

“Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn. They teach you there’s a boundary line to music. But man, there’s no boundary line to art.” – Charlie Parker

In celebration of Lévy Gorvy’s inaugural exhibition, Willem De Kooning – Zao Wou-Ki, I’ve curated a concert exploring the historic and unlikely meeting of French avant-garde composer Edgard Varèse and revolutionary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker.

To realize a program that juxtaposes the disparate music of these two 20th-century masters, trumpeter Peter Evans, uniquely qualified as an acclaimed jazz improviser and a virtuosic classical performer, has assembled a brilliantly versatile ensemble just for this occasion, including: Warren Smith – percussion, David Taylor – bass trombone, Jon Irabagon – saxophones, Levy Lorenzo – percussion/electronics, Alice Teyssier – flute.

The Chinese painter Zao Wou-Ki moved to Paris in 1947 with his wife Lan Lan, a composer; amidst the artistic circles there he befriended Edgard Varèse, the inconoclastic composer of dense works of dissonance, noise and visceral new electronic sounds. In 1964 Zao dedicated a monumental painting to his friend.

Dutch born painter Willem De Kooning often claimed his love of jazz as an inspiration for coming to America, once saying, “‪[Miles Davis] doesn’t play the notes, he bends them. I bend the paint.” With a technical facility that was both effortless and explosive, Davis’ mentor, Charlie Parker, would also influence every generation of jazz musicians to follow with the serpentine rhythmic swing and visionary harmonic flights that would become known as bebop. Shortly before his death in 1954, Parker sought out Varèse to study orchestral music with him, while they were both living in Greenwich Village.  Varèse said of Parker, “He was like a child, with the shrewdness of a child. He possessed a tremendous enthusiasm.” The two never met again, but the encounter would resonate with Varèse as well and in 1957 he composed a graphic score for improvisation and recruited some of the top jazz musicians of the day to perform it.

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