William Parker: Long Hidden: The Olmec Series (2006)
Solo contrabass performances are an acquired taste that requires confidence and nerve on the part of the performer and the listener. Long Hidden, comprised of music from four separate sessions, pits several solo performances by William Parker on bass and doson ngoni (West African lute) against a few tracks by the upstart Olmec Group.
The disc opens with a take of "There Is a Balm in Gilead that is so organically conceived and warmly recorded that you can almost forget it's just one man playing, focusing instead on the beautiful woody sound of the instrument. Later, Parker takes up the bow for two pieces recorded live in San Francisco, with his bass sounding more like a violin on "Compassion Seizes Bed-Stuy before he engages all the strings in a barrage of sound. The doson ngoni piece "Long Hidden: Part 3 is like a guitar/bass duet, with steady low notes below and a tinkling melody above. "Long Hidden: Part 1 is serene, like water running through Monet's garden.
While the solo performances here are delivered with the intimacy of a recital, the tracks with the Olmec Group, a merengue band, are exciting and unique in a jazz context. Everyone in New York City is exposed to the nonstop beat of the music of the Dominican Republic, and Parker, along with bassist Todd Nicholson and saxophonist Dave Sewelson, adds veteran skill to the barely containable energy of his young bandmates. "Codex is a riot of percussion (timbales, congas, bongos and a plunking balafon) cut with Sewelson's skittering alto and a wheezing accordion. "El Puente Seco careens along on a hyper motif with saxophone skronks on top, while the groove of metallic percussion on "Pok-A-Tok builds in intensity, inducing an unconsciousness reminiscent of Ornette's "Dancing in Your Head theme.
The recording closes with a lost Parker solo performance from Montreal, originally self-released on cassette in 1993. His attack with the bow is ferocious, generating a huge, raw wall of sound over the course of an epic fourteen minutes. It's not easy listening, but the charisma and commitment of the performance comes across, providing an appropriate capstone to a collection that combines the sounds of the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa with the global language of jazz.
Track Listing: There is a Balm in Gilead; Long Hidden: Part 2; Codex; El Puente Seco; Long Hidden: Part 3; Cathedral of Light; Compassion Seizes Bed-Stuy; Pok-A-Tok; Espirito; Long Hidden: Part 1; 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: doson ngoni, percussion; Omar Payano: conga, guiro, voice; Gabriel Nunez: timbale, bongos.