Bradley Parker-Sparrow: The New World (2009)
It's possible that this improvised session was months in the making, as emails and telephone calls were made and returned to discuss the theme of pianist Bradley Parker-Sparrow's The New World. But, then again with improvisers of this quality this concept album might just as remarkably been laid down with a with a few nods, winks, and hand gestures.
The first nine of eleven tracks coalesce into the theme inspired by Antonín Dvořák's 1893 "New World Symphony," inspired by the Czech composer's trip to America and his discovery of Native-American and African-American musics. Here, Parker-Sparrow expands the 21st century New World to include the influence of South America and Asia on American music-making. Assembled are Asian-American saxophonist Francis Wong and bassist Tatsu Aoki, Brazilian-born percussionist Dedé Sampaio, and jazz vocalist Joanie Pallotto, who was also the recording engineer.
What begins with a very simple bowed introduction unfolds gently into a graceful landscape, each artist caring for his sound, be it Aoki's shamisen (3-string lute), Sampaio's Brazilian musical bow, Wong's shinobue (bamboo flute) or Parker-Sparrow's piano harp, harmonica, and calimba. The theme here is cross-cultural music making; not "this-is-good-for-you" medicine, but that of like-minded kindred spirits creating from the same page.
The music breaks into some inspired combinations. Pallotto's wordless vocals accent the swinging beats of Sampaio, while Aoki lays down the heavy groove on "Pinwheel." "Skip Hop" begins at Miles Davis/Gil Evans' Sketches Of Spain (Columbia, 1960), with both Sampao and Parker-Sparrow dancing notes behind Wong's Coltrane-inspired tenor before the piece turns introspective. The emotional shift via the Parker-Sparrow's sensitive touch signals a melancholy end by the players.
Parker-Sparrow's playing can be as light as a feather and come as thunder, as heard on "Secret Code," his duet with Wong. The final two tracks, one a spoken piece and Parker-Sparrow's studio-programmed "Kanye OK, OK (She Wants A Jazz Man)" are Gil Scott-Heron-inspired rap lessons for the next generation of stars that know nothing of their roots. Maybe Kanye West should start his schooling right here.
Track Listing: Overture: The New World; The New World; Pinwheel; Walk With Me; Tico's Lust; Secret Code; Skip Hop; Every Day; Finale: The New World; Essay On Black Noise; Kanye OK, OK (She Wants A Jazz Man).
Personnel: Bradley Parker-Sparrow: piano, percussion, harmonica, vocals; Francis Wong: tenor saxophone, shinobue, flute; Tatsu Aoki: acoustic bass, electric bass, shamisen; Dedé Sampaio: percussion, berimeau; Joanie Pallatto: vocals, trap drums, percussion; Magic (the dog): one long bark.