The mere juxtaposition of the words summer and snow present a paradox infiltrated with energy. To move from the idea of one word to the other in itself requires a conscious shift in imagination. To invest meaning into the metaphor requires openness and belief in its potential dynamic. The duo of William Parker and Hamid Drake forges a bond that bolsters that dynamic in another release of their duo sessions called Summer Snow. When the two play, their sound is as hot as a summer's day and as clear as individual crystals of snow. We hear a true translation from one track to the next of how the rhythm of life can weave differently through each day.
Wedded to the penetrating impact of the tabla, Drake initiates our journey on the opener, "Awake, Arise. Thereafter, a portrait of our environment and humanity is painted with tabla, frame drum and drum set along with various stringed instruments and flutes on which Parker shapes simple melodies.
At the beginning, the inescapable repetition of the phrasings on the stringed instruments, integrated with the light yet forceful touch on the tabla, ground us. Drake's precision with the tabla is relentless and precious. When Parker overlays the pulse of the drums with a raspy shakuhachi line or a delicate though insistent wooden flute melody, it is as if the human voice has entered into the mix. The flutes describe an interaction with life in a way that is full of appreciation, humility, dance, song and ritual.
Halfway through the recording Drake switches to the gongs. Parker plays the shakuhachi and strokes the singing bowls. Water swirls in one of the bowls. The atmosphere has changed into one of holiness and spirituality, reaching beyond the earth to the abstract ways of the unknowable.
The next section of the recording transforms the atmosphere again. Parker fingers the strings of his bass, establishing an unswerving and impenetrable groove. Drake falls in with no reservations on the drum set: the cymbals begin to hiss and a drumstick clicks on the edge of the snare. It is time to lie back and enjoy the trance. Parker eases into moving his fingers through the strings, plucking note after note, shaping line after line, snapping string after string: his hands become extensions of his instrument. Drake plays out brilliantly on his drum set, clean and weightless, staying right with Parker on the pulse, delivering nothing less than fitting ornament and accent.
The tabla and doson'ngoni bracket the recording, revisiting a restful, contemplative place which, we are reminded with a wooden flute on the closing "Hadra, can metamorphose into a harsh reality that sings the loudest.
William Parker and Hamid Drake are an unassailable team. How many times can music be blessed with two musicians who come together and play without hesitation and without question? The answer is maybe...once, just once.
Personnel: William Parker: doson'ngoni, shakuhachi, dumbek, talking drum, water bowls, bass; Hamid Drake: tabla, frame drum, gongs, drums.