JD Parran is a consummate musician's musician, a multi-reedist who has performed in a wide variety of settings, most notably with Julius Hemphill and members of St. Louis' Black Artists Group, as well as Anthony Braxton's ensembles; he was also a member of the horn section Robbie Robertson introduces at the start of The Band's Rock of Ages. Recorded live at NYC's Merkin Concert Hall on September 12, 2002, Parran and bassist Mark Deutsch co-lead a group that includes pianist Joseph Kubera, percussionist Kevin Norton and cellist David Darling. Deutsch is best known as the inventor of the bazantar, a five-string bass fitted with a multitude of additional strings tuned to generate the buzzing drones heard in Indian music.
The first 35-minute half of Omegathorp combines a four-part score by Parran with a poem written by the late saxophonist and free jazz legend Glenn Spearman. The performance is dominated by vocalist Thomas Buckner, who reads in a Ginsbergian style and sings in an operatic baritone that gives the work an Amiri Baraka-meets-Stephen Sondheim quality. Darling's cello sets the musical pace and establishes the mood, while Kubera and Deutsch provide Western and Eastern accents above Norton's spacious drumming and Parran's reedy jazz inflections.
Spoken word recordings can be risky. What may work in a live setting as a singular experience doesn't always translate to the isolated solitude of sitting at home in front of your speakers or behind the wheel, or walking around the house or around town wearing earbuds. For the slightly more conventional listener, the second half of this CD offers Deutsch's long, organically conceived and smartly executed composition "Kwama Okura (succeeding on a heavy Alice Coltrane/Yo-Yo Ma vibe), as well as an electronically-enhanced group improvisation (including vocals from Darling) that shows what these musicians can do on their own Silk Road journey.
Track Listing: Omegathorp: Living City Suite: Explore Coming Forth; Breath Textures; Done Chanting Forests; Done Woman; Kwama Okura; Improvisation.
Personnel: JD Parran: alto clarinet, soprano saxophone, bamboo flute, Eb contrabass clarinet; Mark Deutsch: bazantar, sitar; David Darling: cello, electronics, electro-vocals; Kevin Norton: percussion; Joseph Kubera: piano; Thomas Buckner: voice.