Raymond MacDonald: Desire Lines

Improvising solo saxophonist from Glasgow recalls Evan Parker and Roscoe Mitchell as he toys with sequence, repetition and space


On the three solos assembled here MacDonald comes out of the continuum that takes in (amongst others) Roscoe Mitchell and Evan Parker. The latter’s way, in particular his use of circular breathing, is to the fore on Desire Line 1, played on alto sax, where MacDonald exhibits a way of chasing down a line, so to speak, and striving, though not to the point where energy overrides everything else, to reach an accommodation with the silence which in the course of our daily lives often seems rarer than ever. Playing in what sounds like a relatively dry environment (as in a space where any echo is either very fast or non-existent) lends the music a kind of parched urgency.

In his soprano sax work on Desire Line 2 MacDonald is to be commended for the extent to which he dodges not only the Parker prededent but also those of Lol Coxhill and Steve Lacy. What consequently emerges is in a sense both reflective and compelling, as if he has toned down the rhetoric (empty or otherwise) and focused not so much on a narrowing of vocabulary as the elimination of superfluous gestures. The resulting music is more engaging.

Desire Line 3 is arguably more concerned with the sheer mechanics of saxophone playing than anything else. Initially soft, garbled sounds emerge urgently from MacDonald’s straight horn and his always transitory preoccupation with the passing moments results in increasing volume but nothing gestural, as if the inspiration of those moments is shaping his thought process and the product of that process is music informed by both that context and the past as embodied by the names referenced above.

Desire Line 1; Desire Line 3; Desire Line 3 (39.26)
Raymond MacDonald (as, ss). Glasgow, 22 March 2023.
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