263

William Parker Quartet: Sound Unity

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
William Parker Quartet: Sound Unity William Parker wears many hats: bassist, shaman, communicator, composer, poet, activist, bandleader, and more. (He's also been known to sport any number of colors and fabrics on his dome, but that's a story for another day.)

But the one thing he does best, and which has affected me most, is teach. In listening to his music, I've come to understand many things, some of which can't be easily put into words. They go way beyond any kind of technical or intellectual appreciation— more often than not, they have to do with unexpected ways that people, ideas, and emotions can be connected.

Something of a magnet for the out jazz community, Parker has worked with a number of players over the years, including some of the most abstract minds in music. But whatever the setting, he always introduces a feeling of groundedness and common sense. Those qualities came up in great abundance on O'Neal's Porch (Centering Music, 2000; AUM Fidelity, 2002), a soaring quartet record with alto saxophonist Rob Brown, trumpeter Lewis Barnes, and drummer Hamid Drake.

Sound Unity finds the same group reunited in live performance at two venues in Canada last summer (four tracks were recorded in Vancouver, two in Montreal). It sounds great. Given the instrumentation and the loose groove that underlies much of the performance, one can't help but recall the classic freebopping Ornette Coleman quartet. That resemblance comes through in the way the horns intertwine over the course of elaborating a theme, the way the rhythm section lays out a viscerally moving but constantly shifting foundation, and the way melody and harmony interchange roles fluidly over the course of what must be always, at least in a relative sense, collective improvisation.

But where Ornette fixated on folky blues, this group opens its horizons to a much broader range of sound and emotion. Rob Brown occasionally roots around the lower end of his instrument, but more often than not, he flies free like a bird into the air. Barnes stabs, flutters, and floats, capable of driving a point home but sometimes sounding quite fragile. And many glowing words have been said about the intuitive/counterintuitive relationship that William Parker shares with Hamid Drake, but they're as in tune with each other here as they have ever been, swinging (or not swinging), riffing (or not riffing), but almost always mining a groove from out of deep Africa.

Each tune in this generous (70-minute) set has its own dedication and story, elaborated in the liner notes along with a few other words from the composer. Each is sufficiently different that you'll run into plenty of surprises along the way. But once you've heard the record out, what's most striking is its overall connectedness. This isn't rocket science, or musicology, or anything the remotest bit academic. Just listen and you'll understand.

Visit William Parker on the web.

Track Listing: Hawaii; Wood Flute Song; Poem for June Jordan; Sound Unity; Harlem; Groove. Recorded at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre, 7/2/2004 (1,2,5,6); and La Sala Rossa, Montreal, 6/27/2004 (3,4). Total time 70:32.

Personnel: William Parker: bass; Rob Brown: alto saxophone; Hamid Drake: drums; Lewis Barnes: trumpet.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: AUM Fidelity | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Petite Afrique CD/LP/Track Review Petite Afrique
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite CD/LP/Track Review Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 29, 2017
Read The Wild CD/LP/Track Review The Wild
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Soul Garden CD/LP/Track Review Soul Garden
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: April 29, 2017
Read The Authorized Bang Collection CD/LP/Track Review The Authorized Bang Collection
by Doug Collette
Published: April 29, 2017
Read Cross My Palm With Silver CD/LP/Track Review Cross My Palm With Silver
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 28, 2017
Read "Bombogenic" CD/LP/Track Review Bombogenic
by Dave Wayne
Published: May 21, 2016
Read "The Evolution Suite" CD/LP/Track Review The Evolution Suite
by Troy Dostert
Published: October 10, 2016
Read "Paris" CD/LP/Track Review Paris
by Duncan Heining
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Les Rhincéros III" CD/LP/Track Review Les Rhincéros III
by Tyran Grillo
Published: August 18, 2016
Read "Sunrain" CD/LP/Track Review Sunrain
by Geno Thackara
Published: November 25, 2016
Read "Beninghove's Hangmen Plays Led Zeppelin" CD/LP/Track Review Beninghove's Hangmen Plays Led Zeppelin
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: March 23, 2017

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!