Summer Snow is the second studio recording from the adroit rhythm team of bassist William Parker and percussionist Hamid Drake. Their first duo recording, the poly-ethnic exploration Piercing the Veil (AUM Fidelity, 2001), was recently reissued together with the previously unreleased live concert recording First Communion. This sequel finds the telepathic pair delving even deeper into indigenous cultural traditions for inspiration.
Parker and Drake expand further on the pan-global experiments of Don Cherry, Codona and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Eschewing the occasionally dissonant arco work and atonal reed outbursts of their first collaboration, this record flows with a meditative, hypnotic quality. Despite the primarily reflective aspect, the session contains a variety of moods and colors.
Parker wields an array of exotic instruments; plying straightforward folk melodies on shakuhachi, fragile pastoral arpeggios with doson'ngoni and spectral commentary via water bowls and talking drum. Drake reveals a number of percussive effects, utilizing frame drum and tablas to expressive effect.
Focusing on elemental rhythms during the album's first half, Drake's driving pulse on "Sky" spurs Parker's lyrical doson'ngoni through a maze of tempo changes and tonal dynamics. Shifting focus, Drake embellishes subtle harmonic variations during the kinetic "Pahos" while Parker interjects breathy shakuhachi accents.
The album takes a shadowy detour half-way through, beginning with "Sifting the Dust." Scintillating metal harmonics and resonating echoes from water bowls, gongs and chimes pervade this haunting musical landscape all the way through "Traces of the Beloved."
Changing gears, "Anaya Dancing" arrives like a wake up call, driving hard with upright bass and trap set. This forceful groove introduces the expansive, swinging jazz variations of "Konte," filled with riveting call and response interplay. "Faces" brings the album full circle, summoning a delicate West African melody from Parker's doson'ngoni, floating over Drake's nuanced frame drum palpitations before closing with the brief primal cry of "Hadra."
Summer Snow incorporates jazz improvisation into myriad ethnic traditions in a satisfyingly organic way. Blending cultures and aesthetics, this is global music in the truest sense, equal parts uncharted future and primordial past.
Personnel: William Parker: doson'ngoni, shakuhachi, dumbek, talking drum, water bowls, bass; Hamid Drake: tabla, frame drum, gongs, drums.