Percussionist Paul Lytton is both an inventive, textural drummer in the tradition of European free jazz, and a pioneer in electronic sound processing and the use of homemade instruments of his own invention. Lytton made his first noteworthy appearances on the British creative music scene in the late '60s, and his influence -- particularly in live electronics -- can still be observed in the experimentation of a new generation of improvisers in the 21st century.
Born in London in 1947, Lytton studied drums privately from the age of 16 and played dance music before his introduction to jazz. He performed with many of the London jazz establishment from 1966 to 1969 while also taking tabla lessons from P.R. Desai. Around 1969, Lytton began his initial forays into freely improvised music, forming a duo with the soon-to-be legendary multi-reedist Evan Parker, who played not only saxophones but also various homemade instruments including the "lyttonophone." Bassist Barry Guy eventually linked up with Parker and Lytton, and the Evan Parker Trio was born. Lytton was a founding member of the London Musicians' Cooperative and collaborated with various other artists on the London improvisers' scene from 1970 until 1975. He also developed a strong relationship with Aachen-based percussionist Paul Lovens, and in 1976 helped found the Aachen Musicians' Cooperative.
Lytton has performed in Europe, the United States, Canada, and Japan as a soloist and in various combinations with other improvising musicians. He has continued to work with Parker and Guy, serving as a member of Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, the London Jazz Composers' Orchestra, and the King Übü Örchestrü. Lytton appears on countless recordings on various labels including Island, Incus, Po Torch, FMP, Intakt, ECM, Leo, CIMP, and Rastacan. In 1999, Lytton toured in the United States with Chicago saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark and bassist Kent Kessler; he appears with Vandermark on the duo CD English Suites, released that year on Wobbly Rail. During the 1990s, Lytton also performed on two Evan Parker Trio CDs featuring guest pianist Marilyn Crispell: Natives and Aliens in 1996 and After Appleby in 1999 (both on the Leo label).
The drummer then joined Crispell for several albums on Intakt, including 2001's Odyssey and 2004's Ithaca. Also in 2004, he appeared with Evan Parker and Alexander von Schlippenbach on America 2003. Lytton next joined Parker for several more highly adventurous productions, including 2007's Topos and 2010's Scenes in the House of Music. He also collaborated with trumpeter Nate Wooley on a handful of albums, including 2009's The Seven Storey Mountain, 2010's Creak Above 33, and 2012's The Nows. In 2016, Lytton reunited his trio with Crispell and Barry Guy for Deep Memory. ~ Dave Lynch