Pianist Christopher Parker convenes the Band Of Guardian Angels for five slices of rootsy free jazz on Soul Food. There is an organic down home feel to the often laid back interplay. But of course the creation of enduring music while being this relaxed occurs not by chance but stems from untold depth of experience. Joining Parker and his wife, vocalist Kelley Hurt, are three vets from the NYC scene in bassist William Parker (no relation), drummer Gerald Cleaver and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter, who possess a synergy honed over numerous sessions together, Welcome Adventure (577 Records, 2022) being just one example,
In spite of the talent-packed crew, this is not a blowing date. The ensemble is all. Snatches of individual expression surface at times, but in passing vignettes rather than extended solos. Accordingly, proceedings get off to an atmospheric start on "Morning Ritual," as drifting wisps of shakuhachi, muted trumpet (from both Carter and Branch), flute and breathy exhalations gradually overlap and take firmer shape in a swirling rubato. Here as elsewhere, Hurt's wordless vocals pleasingly blend with the horns to fashion an egalitarian front line.
As the interchange unfolds it is often William Parker's thrillingly unruly arco playing that grabs the ear, whether stalking the clearings that appear in the weave on "Guardian Angels" or fuelling the bickering horns on "Over Your Own Two Feet." On piano, Parker's ringing melodic/rhythmic matrix, with occasional hints of older forms such as ragtime and barrelhouse, anchors the date. Carter and Branch's lines intertwine, the older man identifiable by his customary unhurried delivery and blues tinge, whether on brass or reed, while Branch proves more volatile, here hot and waspish, there cool and melancholic.
A high note from Branch partway through "Truth & Fiction" prompts Carter into a sudden squeal, and Parker into a sparkling piano outburst. The closing title cut mirrors the opener, but this time with more bristling interaction, which once again confirms that it is the quality of the parts which elevates this date above the everyday.
Morning Ritual; Guardian Angels; Over Your Own Two Feet; Truth and Fiction; Soul Food.
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