Bassist, composer, Vision Festival organizer and all-around Renaissance man William Parker is a man of many talents, from solo bass recitalist to big band leader. Raining On The Moon, his lyrical group, features the vocal talents of Leena Conquest, singing Parker's words like they were her own. Based on the same line-up as his long-standing quartet (altoist Rob Brown, trumpeter Lewis Barnes and drummer Hamid Drake), this variation featured on Corn Meal Dance adds a new voice, pianist Eri Yamamoto.
Yamamoto was featured on Parker's straight-ahead trio recording Luc's Lantern (Thirsty Ear, 2005), and brings a similar mainstream approach to this session. Rich chordal voicings, tender dynamics and a supple touch on ballads makes Yamamoto an essential presence throughout these mid-tempo swingers, which veer from ballads and blues to post-bop tunes.
Playing in the pocket more often than not, the instrumentalists do get in some quality solo time, but never at the expense of the song forms. Brown's impassioned alto is typically tart, but somewhat more restrained than usual, while Barnes' trumpet is supple and occasionally biting. Yamamoto plays with conviction and drive, pushing herself stylistically. Parker and Drake's intuitive rapport continues to demonstrate why they are widely considered one of the best rhythm teams around, even when playing primarily supportive roles.
With the tunes loosely arranged around Parker's lyrics, Conquest becomes the sextet's focal point. Her delivery, spinning foreboding tales and somber requiems, ranges from wise soulfulness and steadfast indictment to tender reflection. Elegies to Rwanda ("Tutsi Orphans") and accounts of America's racist past ("Land Song") are balanced out by tender remembrances of loved ones ("Poem For June Jordan") and optimistic paeans to peace ("Corn Meal Dance").
Blending yearning gospel moods, somber ballads, folksy protest songs and modally charged excursions, Corn Meal Dance is one of William Parker's most accessible efforts.
Doctor Yesterday; Tutsi Orphans; Poem For June Jordan; Soledad; Corn Meal Dance; Land Song; Prayer; Old Tears; Gilmore's Hat.
William Parker: bass; Rob Brown: alto saxophone; Lewis Barnes: trumpet; Hamid Drake: drums; Eri Yamamoto: piano; Leena Conquest: voice.
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