William Parker Quartet: Petit Oiseau (2008)
Bassist and composer William Parker has been leading this quartet for eight years now and this is the group's third release overall. That information is more than usually pertinent in this case as it brings home precisely why this music is so cogently executed. Familiarity between these four men has not led to a blase attitude to the music along with the kind of coasting that goes with it, but to the strength of the collective sound of a group in action, of musicians going about their business with both an overriding sense of purpose and a firm grasp of the materials at their disposal.
Thanks to all of this, not even the virtually eighteen minutes of the opening "Groove Sweet: Groove #7/Hamid's Groove/Daughters Joy" loses anything in the way of impetus. The rhythm section of Parker and drummer Hamid Drake has a symbiotic thing going on which ensures the groove is indeed never far from our thoughts as the track progresses. They are also masters of color, light and shade, which ensures that the soloing of Rob Brown on alto sax and trumpeter Lewis Barnes takes flight over foundations a city could rest on.
Set against this, the less than seven minutes of "The Golden Bell" is in real terms relatively brief, but the amount of ground it covers has the effect of making that time difference count for very little. As much as anything here, it has about it the air of a four-way discussion which lies at the very heart of the quartet's music making. Rob Brown, in solo, shows a degree of favor both to repetition and to an accommodation with silence the like of which is taken up with enthusiasm by Drake; such is his way as a drummer that he never overstates his case and his shying away from empty grandstanding serves the collective interest of the group.
Their commonly understood avoidance of the studied is also a joy to hear. On "Four For Tommy" Barnes shows how little he owes to the likes of Don Cherry and Dave Douglas, with his approach to the free bop setting being entirely his own. Brown gets heated on this one, though not to the extent that he's heat and nothing but. Again his use of repetition, veiled this time, against the backdrop of Parker's hyperactive bass hits spots too numerous to discuss here.
In view of the reputations of the musicians here, this set errs on the conservative side, but that matters not a bit. The profound humanity of the music they make renders such labeling irrelevant, especially when they assert so strongly and joyously the virtues of human beings interacting on an almost telepathic level.
Track Listing: Groove Sweet: Groove #7/Hamid's Groove/Daughters Joy; Talaps Theme; Petit Oiseau; The Golden Bell; Four For Tommy; Malachi's Mode; Dust From A Mountain; Shorter For Alan.
Personnel: Lewis Barnes: trumpet; Rob Brown: alto sax, clarinet; William Parker: bass, cedar flute; Hamid Drake: drums.
Record Label: AUM Fidelity