The Majestic

Evan Parker
At the Finger Palace
The Beak Doctor : 1979

EP, soprano sax.

Sometimes half measures won’t do. When you’re striving for total transcendence, there’s no room for accommodation. The listener is forced to either buckle up for the journey or bail out completely. A casual ride on the running board is not an option.

Evan Parker’s accomplishments were well known in Euro circles by the late 1970s, but this album is the one that helped put him on the map in the U.S. Despite small distribution, it received a coveted five star review in Downbeat from Art Lange. The winding track “Fingerprints” – split into two parts – showcases Parker’s distinctive soprano sax attack. There’s his ability to shred notes and reharmonize riffs, his hypnotic and keening swirls of sound, his recontextualizing of breaths and wheezes and other supposedly non-musical sounds into the overall sonic palette.

To our ears, this performance finds Parker ascending a new creative plateau, a further refinement of his technique coupled with a fuller and more focused improvisational approach. In Howard Mandel’s Future Jazz, there’s a symposium section where one participant says this performance turned sold him on the possibilities of free improv. Such is the power of At The Finger Palace.

The Finger Palace is the name of the club in Oakland where the performance was recorded. But as context has fallen away over the years, the evocative name and unusual cover image now carry a mystique beyond the mundane facts. We can’t help but imagine the Finger Palace as some medieval castle, a remote structure where brutal and serpentine pilgrimages culminate. Or maybe that’s the sort of majestic vision the music helps to evoke.

So close your eyes and let yourself be enveloped by the sound. Give the music’s logic and scuffed lyricism a chance to assert themselves. There are no half-measures in listening to this music either. But once you’ve cracked the surface, you wouldn’t have it any other way.

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TELL US IN THE COMMENTS: Those of you who know the nooks of Parker’s impressively daunting discography can probably put the achievements of Finger Palace in a better musical context. And we’d be curious to hear the reactions from those hearing it for the first time. So don’t be shy.

MORE PICTURES: Here’s another great image by the same artist whose work was used on the album cover.

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UPDATE, 3 NOV: In light of the comments below, we’ve initiated the first-ever D:O poll; see in the sidebar, to your right. The Beak Doctor is genuinely curious about the demand for a CD reissue of this album. Let your vote be counted. If this is a successful feature, perhaps we can again help generate interest in similar sorts of decisions.

Category Evan Parker

19 Responses to The Majestic

  1. Good to see more of Evan Parker’s work here!

    If you like this, be sure to check out his fantastic ‘Lines Burnt in Light’ on Psi

    much more recent solo soprano – it’s absolutely magnificent

    I’d also recommend his Electro-Acoustic Ensemble’s recent works, namely Memory/Vision and The Eleventh Hour (in chronological order) – both on ECM

    The EAE is a much larger group and a great way to hear Evan’s ideas translated onto a larger canvas – brilliant music

  2. This is amazing. The section beginning at about 11:20 does not sound possible for one human to produce. I have several EP discs, but had never heard this, and am sad that it appears to not be available. My personal favorites of his are Chicago Tenor, 50th Birthday Concert and Most Materiall. Thanks for sharing this with your listeners/readers.

  3. Beautiful. Thanks for the track, I’m not particularly familiar with Mr. Parker’s oeuvre.

  4. I was at the performance and reviewed it in my newsletter BELLS. It remains one of the most amazing and masterful performances Iâ??ve ever attended. It is also the longest single solo performance by Parker on record. The main part of my review is below. You can read it in full at

    “Evan Parker appeared in San Francisco and Berkeley on the last leg of a four week solo tour of Canada and the U.S.

    “His playing is moving more in cycles than ever before, closely akin to a kind of repetition music, but never as straightforward as that. The weight of it is always shifting from one of its two or three or four (!) simultaneous levels to another, one part dropping out here, another being added, the sound tilting this way and that. It was an extremely mobile music and highly rhythmic, a wide-open harmonic and textural collage moving in and out of phase with itself, the sounds and their cricket-like quickness often suggesting an electric sound source; at the same time, it seemed not that far removed from the way several conga drummers might make music. So it was highly ritualistic music, at times bringing to mind the sound of bagpipes or of the Indian shenai, and almost shamanistic in its insistence (that being due in no small part to Parkerâ??s extensive circular breathing technique) and in its physicalness. This was best displayed at the Finger Palace, the living-room performing space of pianist Greg Goodman, where Parkerâ??s sounds ricocheted off the hard wood floors, caroming around and about the small enclosure, playing sounds in our ears (sometimes just out of sync with each other) seemingly independent of those coming from the instrument itself.

    “As far as I could tell, the music was not fundamentally different in kind from some of that on the Saxophone Solos LP (Incus 19, see review), but the range of sounds, both possible and available at any given moment, has increased enormously, and the complexity of their interactions has reached monumental proportions. A good sense of it can be heard on the Monoceros record (Incus 27), though I think now it is even beyond that….”

  5. Amazing, thanks for making this available. I really have no idea how Evan parker produces some of those sounds.

    Some parts of this strongly reminded me of celtic music, partially the rhythmic feel, and also maybe becuase his use of multiphonics is vaguely reminiscent of the bagpipes

  6. I have heard tidbits of Parker’s work before (mainly Time Lapse), but this wonderful tune was much more enlightening. I love the rythmic patterns he weaves into the drone of overtones.

  7. Great post. This and the EP recording with Greg Goodman on the same label are two of my favorite free music recordings. Both hold up very well after all these years. Wonderful artwork also, as noted. I would also recommend ‘Birmingham Concert’ w. Paul Dunmall, Barry Guy and Tony Levin (Rare Music 1993) – if you like Parker’s louder stuff.

  8. My dears,
    How lovely to learn you have tripped over Evan’s Finger Adventure which we put out on our label some years ago after the recording at Woody Woodman’s Finger Palace in BERKELEY, not a club in Oakland, oh my. The Finger Palace is very much in place still, yet we would not tamper with your imaginations with regard to any specific fixtures or majestic visions. You need only apply: in other words, you could come to a Palace Performance if you figure out how to do that. Some do.
    As was mentioned, there is also a duo recording with the brilliant (if you have shown a light in his face) Greg Goodman that was recorded on the same night as Evan’s solo, but issued seperately. Both of these albums might well be reissued as a CD set if we KNEW you would procure them in a timely manner. You might wish to investigate or meddle further by a brief visit to Since most music seems to get around in other ways, we are not sure WHY we would reisssue this now; however, convince us.
    Or, you could phone us up and we might play the rest of FingerPrints over the phone.

    The Beak Speaks

  9. To hear Evan in yet another setting, there are a couple of magnificent quartet dates with Steve Beresford, John Edwards and Louis Moholo. The group’s called ‘Foxes Fox’, and the records are on Emanem and Psi respectively. There’s a third forthcoming on Psi, featuring a guest spot from Kenny Wheeler!

  10. dr. beak — hope there are plans to reissue the full album. i didn’t know this release before but now i’d love to get my hands on a copy. i’d be happy to plunk down some change for it. betting a bunch of others would too.

    first, it’d be great to hear all the tracks. plus to have a version that sounds better than the tatty vinyl rip here (no offense to our hosts, of course). this is a nice sampler here but bring on the real thing!

  11. reissue of full album on cd with good sound? yes, please!

  12. Thanks to all for the great comments and suggestions. And a mea culpa to the good beak doctor (to whom we have also written an email) for not clearing this ahead of time. It’s not entirely clear from the comment whether he (she?) wants the link down; we’ve asked, and will abide. We join the others in enthusiastically endorsing a cleaned up CD release of this performance.

  13. my initiation into the world of Evan Parker was with his solo album, lines burnt in light. I will be painfully honest and say that the beginning of the finger palace piece had me reaching for lines burnt. Later i found myself opening up to the music, particularly around the middle of finger palace Parker hones in on two particular textures, with one of them very rhythmic, very other worldly yet sounded in this one, describing this music almost feels perverse. Thank you again, Destination-out.

    To beak doctor: I agree with the those above, these recordings deserve to be to cleaned up and re-issued on cd.

  14. Dr. Beak–

    I actually managed to snag complete mp3 files of these sessions, but I have to say that I would be first in line to pick up an official re-mastered release of this record. The textures are just so incredibly dense and nuanced; they definitely deserve the greatest fidelity available.

    Anyhow, MHO, for what it’s worth…

  15. What Brent said.
    Finger Palace is right up there with Monoceros and Conic Sections as the best of EP’s solo records.

  16. This is glorious sound sculpture…hoping for a reissue. Thanks for putting this up.


  17. A few notes, flat or sharp, on the strange relationship between The Beak Doctor and The Oldest Palace On The San Andreas Fault: Woody Woodman’s Finger Palace. When The Beak Doctor approached us regarding the upcoming performance of Evan Parker and Greg Goodman in 1978, we were delighted that such a dedicated institution with impeccable recording and artisitic standards was interested in working together. Both recordings and subsequent records were beautifully produced, both from the view of high technical standards as well as an obsessive attention to artistic detail. The records were beautiful objects in themselves, and served to further enhance the efforts of the musicians in the most dignified and play-ful manner.
    As a consequence, Woody Woodman’s Finger Palace invited The Beak Doctor to join in other enterprises through the years: recordings were made of Derek Baily, Henry Kaiser, John Gruntfest, Henry Kuntz, Evan Parker/Paul Lytton, Greg Goodman, Buckethead, John Ozwald, George Cremaschi, Dave Slusser, Paul Rutherford, Mats Gustafsson, and hundreds more. Most of those recordings–but not all–were, and are, made during performances at The Palace. Some were subsequently released on The Beak Doctor label, either in LP format or later on CD. Most have not yet been released because, as The Beak Doctor has told us, “I’ll get to it right after I’ve had lunch; can you loan me a dollar?”
    It should be mentioned, that The Palace does not particularly produce musical encounters any more than theatrical or folly demonstrations (many of those captured on unreleased video). We have always tried for the best Scandals possible, and after 30 years, WWFP is still enjoying the
    the tomatoes thrown at the performers even if rotten….
    We salute The Beak Doctor and support any efforts it needs to raise cash and peanut butter sandwich money for whatever reason it can get away with. We recommend their site ( for further amusements.

    Most Sincerely, Woody Woodman