Few musicians have managed to integrate life, art, spirituality, and philosophy the way William Parker has. Author of three volumes of poetry, exponent of art as an alternative to materialism and entrapment, spiritual lightning pole, and master bassist: what else is left? The Little Huey, back on CD after 1997's sensational Sunrise in the Tone World
, continues to realize Parker's very personal vision.
The underlying principle behind the new two-CD set, Mayor of Punkville, is freedom. But with up to 15 players performing simultaneously, it's a short leap from freedom to chaos. Parker's solution to this problem is to provide a loose compositional framework whereby the orchestra can stay harmonically rooted and still maintain a steady sense of progress. Each member of the orchestra has the option of playing in one of three or four harmonic configurations, plus rhythmic organization as they see fit. The players also have the option, at any given time, to step away from Parker's arrangements and play their own material. With the right group of musicians, this framework can be a dynamic and passionate success. (Look to Punkville for proof of the latter.) In a way, it's a microcosmic model of life itself: the vibrations of humankind only exist sympathetically when individuals retain creativity and sensitivity.
There's not too much else to say. Parker's vision on Mayor of Punkville realizes itself over time through a living, breathing apparatus of free improvisation. A poetic tribute to James Baldwin comes to life through song, performed with emotion by Aleta Hayes. The colors on the 2-disc set range from placid blue to vibrant red. Though this material was recorded live (how else?) during mid- to late-1999, the sound quality remains high and the individual voices on the recording shine through. It's hard to imagine producing a successor to 1997's Sunrise in the Tone World with the same emotive power, but Parker has done just that on Mayor of Punkville.
Personnel: William Parker: bass, piano; Roy Campbell: trumpet, flugelhorn; Richard Rodriguez: trumpet; Lewis Barnes: trumpet; Masahiko Kono: trombone; Steve Swell: trombone; Alex Lodico: trombone; Chris Jonas: soprano sax; Darryl Foster: tenor sax, soprano sax; Rob Brown:alto sax, flute; Ori Kaplan: alto sax; Charles Waters: alto sax, clarinet; Dave Sewelson: baritone sax; Dave Hofstra: tuba, bass; Andrew Barker: drums; Cooper-Moore: piano; Aleta Hayes: vocals.