Alan Silva and William Parker collectively inform much of the role and possibilities of the acoustic bass that have been developed since the 1970s. From participating in Cecil Taylor-led ensembles and loft scenes to recording and performing some of the most challenging and rewarding music over the past thirty-some odd years, they have a storied and interwoven history. Consequently, an album of Parker/Silva duets could potentially be a historic moment. And while the results documented on A Hero's Welcome: Pieces For Rare Occasions are not quite up to that level, the album does offer inspired music... just not the kind you may have imagined.
Now reissued by Eremite, A Hero's Welcome is actually not a duo bass record. Rather, Silva has opted for a personal sound that he has been cultivating through midi keyboards and acoustic piano to play tandem with Parker's bass. Dedicated to the spiritual essence of Sun Ra and all the great string players of the 20th Century, A Hero's Welcome isn't the bedrock from which to hang resumes; rather, it's ingrained in both the moment and the possibilities of the future.
Throughout the recording, Silva employs a synthetic string orchestra that actually sounds similar to a synthesized choir of violins and violas in its implementation (those afraid of synthesizers need not be afraid). Overall, it is a convincing sound that only falters when the upper register of the midi string orchestra is used to such a degree that it can become a distraction. Silva also accompanies Parker on acoustic piano in various sections, and while he may not be a master of the instrument, he certainly provides the added effects he is looking for. All this aside, Silva provides an orchestral backdrop that functions in a frame of mind near a modern composer's (references to George Crumb or even more recent Pierre Boulez have their place), and William Parker serves as his featured voice and soloist.
This is not to say that Silva provides only a supporting role, but Parker plays with such fire and vigor that you can lose yourself within his arco or pizzicato techniques. He doesn't play within the music necessarily, but beside it, courting it and redirecting its emotional course. Never going outside of the sonic range of his instrument, his technique and creative ability is astounding.
The album itself is a beautifully detailed recording from 1998 that is purely improvised, with no preset compositional ideas. And even despite that premise, it feels as if this music was a pre-composed suite with the musicians allowed some latitude throughout. In the end, and instrumentation aside, this is a landmark album. Probably not the definitive document some may be looking for, but highly individual in its end result. And anyone interested in the prowess and abilities of William Parker as a bassist would be wise to seek it out.
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