This is so much more than an expansion of multi-instrumentalist William Parker's freewheeling and indeed freer work with his quartet, although a couple of members of that band are present in the ranks of this large ensemble charged with the task of bringing the music off the page. They do this with extraordinary clarity of thought and deed and the results are as compelling as anything released so far this year.
Maximizing in his use of minimal material and a wide tonal palette, Parker has fashioned something pretty unique even within his own canon. The presence of vocalist Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay is of great significance here as she adds to a climate that has little to do with Western values as such. Hinting not so much at world music but rather the music of a new world, Parker has brought to bear a deep understanding of the forces at his disposal; such is the way in which the ear functions that Bandyopadhyay's every utterance is a focal point, although interestingly not to the detriment of the instruments around her. "Morning Mantra" is, amongst other things, an example of this. Even while she is communicating verbally, her use of non-Western tonality infuses the music with a very different kind of momentum.
Based around a similar drone figure maintained by some of the strings, "Lights Of Lake George" is still essentially a dissimilar proposition. Not in the least because the presence of double reeds again moves the very tonality of the music outside of the formulaic, even whilst a percussive pulse is maintained that in its rarefied way swings as though the assignment of the drummers is to offer something familiar. The point is not made as faint praise, incidentally. In his appreciation of the multiplicity of voices at his disposal, Parker rhetorically yet unassumingly sets out a case for the large ensemble as such as something able to embrace something apart from tiresome repertory.
He also, although perhaps only in passing as opposed to as an outcome of dogmatic insistence, fashions a new relationship between soloist and ensemble on "Neptune's Mirror," where Joe Morris's guitar is right in keeping with the air of liberty taking with regards to tonality and Rob Brown's luminescent alto sax is a solid joy. When he trades with Bandyopadhyay that feeling of cross-cultural collaboration comes into its own, as if to set a deeply resonant seal on a statement of vision realized with extraordinary clarity.
Track Listing: Morning Mantra; Lights Of Lake George; O
Personnel: Lewis Barnes: trumpet; Rob Brown: alto sax; Bill Cole: double reeds; Sabir Mateen: tenor sax, clarinet; Dave Sewelson: baritone sax; Jason Kao Hwang: violin; Mazz Swift: violin; Jessica Pavone: viola; Shiau-Shu Yu: cello; Joe Morris: guitar, banjo; Brahim Frigbane: oud; Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay: voice; Shayna Dulberger: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums; Hamid Drake: drums; William Parker: double reeds, doson