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William Parker on Freedom

By Published: April 7, 2005
If you know what something is going to sound like when you play it, why play. It's important not to be afraid of what something will sound like - keep it open to the mystery of sound. People want to control music. The mindset is, well it's not working, there's not an intellectual stream running through it, with it, 'cause it's not controlled. But there's a higher form of intelligence that is beyond our thought process. There are higher levels of thought that move faster than the intellect - something instinctive. People have to trust the idea of instincts - your higher senses. A lot of musicians nowadays are trying to do something. You already are something - the music already is something. You don't have to prove that you can tap into the music and get it coming through you. With this you can really get into the deeper levels of sound. Its 2005, we don't have to worry about trying to be jazz musicians.

AAJ: Your music has been called spiritual, poetic. Do you feel your music has this spiritual quality?

WP: It's very important in art that people feel joy in it and are moved by it, inspired, draped in the beauty of it. These are all aspects of spirituality. Even when it's not so up front - it's there, in all kinds of music. The idea of music is to reach people and change peoples lives - give them something that will strengthen them inside, see music in other parts of there lives so they can get through the day, dance to it, work to the music. [Music] has all sorts of purposes - all connected to this idea [of spirituality].

AAJ: Describe your relationship with Thirsty Ear? Also, tell me a little about what you think their importance to jazz music today is.

WP: Thirsty Ear is quite a different label than what I was used to working with. The content of the music is really concentrated; after repeated listening you begin to hear things that weren't there before and the idea of time dissolves and you're not thinking you want more time. It's just music. That idea was there that I like.

Each album I've done with Thirsty Ear has been different - related of course, but quite different. We haven't used the same group of musicians twice - not only when I've been a leader but as a side person as well. With certain musicians you need more than one label. Thirsty Ear has been able to stick to a particular aesthetic - I think it's paying off. I think the audience is growing and sales are moving along nicely. ...

One of the ideas is to get the music to the people. I think that's very hip because I think the things is, the record buying audience is young people - they're the consumers and there's really nothing wrong with tapping into newer sounds - using electronics, using beats, whatever one wants to use - not just to widen the audience.

AAJ: What does your relationship to Matthew Shipp mean to you?

WP: It seems to me that all the great musicians that I've worked with, throughout the years, who I have a close relationship with on the bandstand - as far as, when you played with them it was like you played with them all your life - Mathew Shipp fits into that. From the first time we played in '86 or '87, and the way we play now, it's the same way except its better cause you have all this experience playing together. We do have different aesthetics, and it's generational. He grew up listening to one type of music - when we play together it doesn't matter though. There's a very intuitive communication system - it all sort of fits in nicely together.

AAJ: Is the same true for David Ware?

WP: Again it's like there's just a hook up there, musically, that kind of works and this is one of the beautiful things about music. You can have a relationship - the music is one person no matter who's playing it and when it's working on one level - whether that's with Billy Bang, Daniel Carter, Roy Campbell - it works.

At a certain level a good improviser can do this. It works always with the universality of music - the idea that it must work when you do it right. The yearning for the perfectionism almost makes you reach out to find that place where you can connect to people. Repeated playing, when a person has a sound and they're really good at what they do - it works. You need that sound, you need each musician to give there all.

AAJ: Give us a quick glimpse at what's in the future for William Parker.

WP: Right now we're working on a new quartet album, with the same personnel as O'Neal's Porch [Lewis Brown, Roy Campbell and Hamid Drake] called Sound Unity, which will be on AUM Fidelity. There's also a Little Huey [Creative Music Orchestra] record we recorded live at Victoriaville and also in Italy, in the works.

Visit William Parker on the web.

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