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William Parker: Song Cycle

Derek Taylor By

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With a reputation and creative resonance that continues to blossom William Parker has come along way since his beginnings in creative improvised music at the dawn of the 1970s. Much more than a formidable bassist, though it's through this persona that he's arguably garnered the most clout, each succeeding project and album continues to reveal the numerous facets of his artistry. Never a cipher when it comes to his spirituality and the sources of his inspiration his compositions have long been couched in the elements and people that give him meaning and a sense of purpose. In recent years his experiments with non-Western instruments such as shakuhachi and shenai have achieved recorded form. Collaborations with poets, such as David Budbill have also been a source creative release. All of these threads in the tapestry that is Parker's musical self combine to depict a sound artist of uncommon depth and honesty.

This disc charts yet another region of his creativity housed in the songs he has written over the years. Each is scribed in homage to the artistic, intellectual and spiritual beacons that have guided his progress, both as a musician and human being, figures such as filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, historian Howard Zinn, kindred bassist Henry Grimes among others. Set to the music of his own bass and the equally tactile piano of Fujiyama his words of thanks are channeled through the radiant voices of Sokolov and Christi and achieve a welcome home. The two vocalists are quite different. Christi deals often in wordless vocalese and wide timbral enunciation ranging from husky to falsetto. Sokolov slips straight sung stanzas between fanciful improvisatory interludes. Both women possess a beauty of articulation and nuance that is stunning in its execution. Parker's strings sing as well, whether bowed or plucked weaving lines around Christi's vocal shapes and textures in shining rhythmic ribbons. 'Life Song,' for Thomas Merton, is awash in moody whispered verses and sparsely thrummed bass, while 'Baldwin's Interlude II' floats on a bright and tranquil meditation to an early silent mentor who came to Parker's aid through pages gleaned at a neighborhood library.

The lyricism of Parker's odes reveals a truth that has manifested routinely in his other improvisatory ensembles- his talent as a composer is substantial. The recordings themselves predate much of the work that resulted in his recent rise to prominence and as such illustrate that his refusal to be constrained by exterior expectation is something that has long informed his art. In a music that continually garners critique for wallowing in the accomplishments of its pioneers he routinely follows his own voice and this collection is no different. Different from what has come before, but drawn from the same core source that continues to find fresh routes of expression.


Track Listing: Footnote to a Dream/ Hunkpapa Song/ Baldwin?s Interlude/ Morning Moon/ For Julius Eastman/ Holiday for Flowers/ Life Song/ A Though for Silence/ Baldwin?s Interlude II/ Aborigine Song/ Cloud and Sea Fading as Rain Falls/ Invisible Pages/ Aborigine Song II/ Falling Shadows/ Band In the Sky.

Personnel: Ellen Christi- voice; William Parker- bass; Lisa Sokolov- voice; Yuko Fujiyama- piano. Recorded: October 10, 1991 and March 3, 1993.

Title: Song Cycle | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Boxholder Records


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