William Parker: Long Hidden: The Olmec Series (2006)
William Parker may be best known as a bassist, but he has also been playing a number of other instruments for quite some time, including string and percussion instruments from Africa and the Middle East. His approach to the doson n'goni, the so-called "hunter's lute" from West Africa, seems to be quite natural, in no small part because the warm, resonant instrument allows him to stretch out and access the rare combination of meditation and groove that he has made central to his music all along. (It doesn't hurt that he's been playing it for thirty years, either.)
Long Hidden is a curious mix of pieces and settings (originating from four different recording dates) that don't sound like they were planned to go together, though the collection flows organically and has good balance. Parker performs on unaccompanied bass (four pieces) or doson n'goni (three pieces), also joining the seven-part Olmec Group on percussion and doson n'goni for the four pieces that anchor the record and impart most of its unique flavor.
The fiery concluding bonus track, "In Case of Accident," was recorded in 1993 and originally released by Parker's own Centering label on Painter's Autumn. Parker's bass playing on the fourteen-minute arco closer is spectacularly rich in timbre and detail. He advances without hesitation, furiously scratching and sliding his way through dense flurries of notes, using unpredictable low tones as a sort of punctuation and sporadic anchor. It's a good example of the kind of physicality at which Parker excels, and anyone who's seen even seasoned professionals try to play his bass knows that it demands a rare degree of power and intensity. Soft, tender, lyrical moments like the opening pizzicato "A Balm In Gilead" reveal the flip side of the coin, exposing Parker's more reflective self.
The most interesting and novel tracks on the record document the Olmec Group, which prominently features four merengue players under 23 years of age. The inspiration behind these piecesthe pre-Columbian Olmec culture of present-day Mexico and the indigenous Taino people of the Caribbeantranslates most idiosyncratically into action. It's unusual, to say the least, to hear thick, ritualistic percussion colored with accordion, saxophones, bass and doson n'goni, but the combination works. It's surprisingly easy to get caught up in the wild, cascading fanfares of "El Puente Seco" or ride the looser groove of the marathon eleven-minute "Pok-A-Tok."
New Old World, Old New World... whatever you want to call it, this music is obviously very mixed up in both time and place.
Track Listing: There is a Balm in Gilead; Long Hidden, Part Two; Codex; El Puente Seco; Long Hidden, Part Three; Cathedral of Light; Compassion Seizes Bed-Stuy; Pok-A-Tok; Espirito; Long Hidden, Part One; Bonus Track: In Case of Accident.
Personnel: William Parker: bass (1,6,7,11), eight-string doson ngoni (2,5,10). The Olmec Group (3,4,8,9): Dave Sewelson: baritone and alto saxophone; Isaiah Parker: alto saxophone; Luis Ramirez: accordion; Todd Nicholson: bass; William Parker: percussion, six-string doson ngoni; Omar Payano: congo, guiro, voice (9); Gabriel Nunez: timbale, bongos.