It has been more than half a century since the oracles Albert Ayler and John Coltrane proclaimed their message of freedom to the people of earth. Please excuse the grandiosity of the above statement, but after those two giants passed, a shift in consciousness began to take hold. In the biography of William ParkerUniversal Tonality: The Life and Music of William Parker (Duke University Press, 2021), Cisco Bradley relates how the passing of Ayler and Coltrane affected the young bassist and inspired him to dedicate his life and music to freedom. Half a century later, the flame lit by the prophets burns bright and powerful in this session.
Bassist William Parker and drummer Hamid Drake need no introduction. The pair have been on the front lines of the vanguard for decades. On Goes Without Saying, But It's Got To Be Said they collaborate with Portuguese trumpeter Luis Vicente and tenor saxophonist John Dikeman. The music demonstrates how the listener can connect the dots of free jazz from Coltrane and Ayler to Don Cherry, David S. Ware, Fred Anderson, and to this new generation of torch carriers.
Recorded in2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, the music is life affirming. As Parker writes in the liner notes, "When It comes down to it I have to go with free improvisation playing without thinking but not thoughtless," and regarding the virus he suggests musicians are "saved every time they played." Within the context of a global pandemic, one might expect music to be urgent and marked by a certain trepidation, but it isn't. Opening with "1st Sentence," Parker's bowed bass and Drake's drum kit, the quartet settles into a 27-minute interaction where energy is traded back and forth not unlike a well-drilled, yet spontaneous sports team. With Dikeman, we hear that Ayler sound which blisters paint, and Vicente's trumpet which mixes parts of Bill Dixon with Don Cherry. Parker, switching to pizzicato, maintains the pulse throughout and Drake has the remarkable ability to swing even in the environs of free jazz. Their "2nd Sentence" is a brief prayer of introspection; opening with the buzzing growl of Vicente's trumpet and the Spanish-tinge of Dikeman's saxophone, the quartet delivers devotional music. The final track, "3rd Sentence" finds Drake's vocals and frame drum fitted with Parker's gimbri, a three string sintir from the Gnawa people. Vicente and Dikeman trade a call-and-response not unlike imagined birds in a forest. The sounds are hypnotic and comforting, and in the time of Covid-19, hopeful.
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