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William Parker: Everything Is Valid

By Published: March 7, 2005

AAJ: And do you feel elated every time you are playing music?

"That's the fundamental center of the music. Every time that you're playing you are trying to get into the center of the sound, bang, right there. That takes a minute, but once you developed that concept, every time you play, it's there. You have to be able to get right in there in an awaked trance state and immediately put yourself into a trance, getting to that area that just opens you up to the other, other worlds. If you don't have that, the music is not going to work, no matter what you are doing. The first time that I had that feeling was with ensemble Muntu at Rashied Ali's place, when one afternoon we played and the bass was lifting me off the ground. And many times we just break through into that area, the spirit area, it was a very elated period.

"We are now in the phase of using folk melodies, head-solo-head, but that's only one aspect of music. Eventually it's going to open up into all areas. Different musicians play in different ways—David S. Ware, Roy Campbell, Matthew Shipp, Dave Burrell, Charles Gayle, Billy Bang or Milford Graves, each has another way and areas of doing things. All these areas are just little specs of the whole spectrum of sound, but eventually what has to happen in everything you do is an a-ah, and when I founded that this a-ah can be as quiet as pin or can be so loud that it will run people out of the room. It can be so soft that people will say it's boring, nothing happening, I want to leave, so very quiet or very intense will run people out of the room, but the quiet can be just as intense as the intense."

The Role of the Musician

"Music has always been 'out of need things arise,' means no one will give you a gig, so you'll rent a church or a space. You have no money to fix your bass so you'll learn how to fix it yourself. You learn how to make things because you can't afford to buy them. You learn how to do things because it's survival.

"Out of it comes the idea of concern to the universe that is very important. You have to be concerned what's going around you. About the little kid down the block, the father who works and comes home late, the mother who got all these bags of groceries, so who is going to help her carrying.

"The Sufi definition of music is anything that is beautiful. Music is lining of beauty. What makes the flower, anything, beautiful is the music inside. Music is not just playing the instrument, it's many other things. Music is the kid who need a coat to the baseball team so you go out and help him out. Always helping people and giving the people, it's part of the music. Part of the service or training should be service to the community as a musician. You're trying to give in many other ways. It's all an extension of that idea, so supporting other musicians or doing your own events, it's a part of extending yourself to giving the community more."

Thirsty Ear's Marriage of Jazz and Electronica

"I have nothing against electronics. Personally I have not used electronics yet, except of short tape collages that I used in the seventies and the eighties, which I like to go back to, but I have not done anything yet with beats. It not the elements, it's how you use the elements. Electronics comes from lightning, and light is natural phenomena, so certainly it's valid."

AAJ: Can you refer to your utterance at the end of "Rocket Shipp" on Matthew Shipp's Nu Bop: "It took me a minute for my brain to go dead, but once it happened, I was in it"?

"When you're thinking too much you're thinking about what you're doing and not responding to the thing that you got to do, like I like/I dislike, rather than feel. Charlie Haden said in the sixties: 'Feelings come first, words come second.'

"Matthew is ten years younger than me, so he grew up in a different generation which is more akin to pop music. Matthew knows a lot about pop music. A song comes in the radio and he knows exactly who it is. I grew up listening to the Temptations, Four Tops, Curtis Mayfield, Platters and R'n'B stuff, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, but my interest stopped there. His interest is much wide-ranging, that's his forte, though he keep playing the piano like he always played on the acoustic piano.

Playing Opportunities: Europe vs. USA

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