Bassist William Parker has been a key figure in different piano trios in the past, including Cecil Taylor's Feel Trio (Looking: Berlin Version, FMP, 1990 and Celebrated Blazons, FMP, 1994), his longtime partner Matthew Shipp's Trio (The Multiplication Table, Hatology, 1998) and most recently in Dave Burrell's Full Blown Trio (High Two, 2004). But none of those trios ever delivered as straightforward and accessible a release as William Parker's own trio on its debut, Luc's Lantern. With this triobacked by classically trained pianist Eri Yamamoto and drummer Michael ThompsonParker, who is usually marked as an avant gardist, manages to frame himself as a composer rooted in the more conventional foundations of the jazz tradition.
Luc's Lantern is mainly a showcase for Parker's up front and forceful Mingus-like playing. Parker nods to two great late pianists who crossed paths with MingusJaki Byard, on "Jaki," which clearly borrows Byard's rootsy style; and Bud Powell, on "Bud In Alphaville," which opts to update Powell's boppish playing with a wink to director Jean-Luc Goddard. Still, the focus through all ten tracks is on melody, intimacy, and restraint. The trio dances around Parker's bass groove on the opening track, "Adena," and emphasizes the sentimentality and simplicity of "Song of Tyler." Only on "Mourning Sunset" and "Evening Star Song" can one hear echoes of the dense pianism of Shipp. The bright lyricism of "Phoenix" even brings to mind Keith Jarrett, and the closing track, the much-too-short "Candlesticks On The Lake," is a bowed improvisation, which leaves one longing for more.
This amazing trio sounds as if it is a working triofresh, relaxed, and assured, and with great affinity towards Parker's rhythmic leadership. Hopefully it will become a regular working trio, maturing with future releases.
Parker's poetry accompanies the release and he writes, in regard to the title track, "I see a forest where only black trees with yellow and purple teeth grow/ Trees that play violins and write poems/ This is a recurring dream but each night/ A small lantern is left on the porch so I can make my way back home." It would appear that he has already found that home, where he began to listen to all that jazz.
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