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William Parker Quartet: Sound Unity

Rex  Butters By

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From the musicians responsible for the classic O'Neal's Porch session (Centering Music, 2001; AUM Fidelity, 2002) comes Sound Unity, the William Parker Quartet recorded live in Canada in 2004. Bassist William Parker, drummer Hamid Drake, alto saxophonist Rob Brown, and trumpeter Lewis Barnes swing hard and bluesy, haunted and lyrical. These four musicians create palpable magic from the bubbling cauldron of empathic ensemble playing and daring solo work backed by masterful technical skill.

The jaunty "Hawaii (for the great Frank Lowe) finds Barnes and Brown playing the head and quickly moving to a playful call and response. Barnes takes the first solo, with Parker rock-steady and Drake imaginatively roaming rhythmic possibility. Barnes blisters the brass before Brown skates the edges with his muse. Barnes returns for continued conversation, then Parker continues his easygoing stroll. "Wood Flute Song (for Don Cherry) naturally seems Ornette-ish and Drake seems to ride the cymbal with a Billy Higgins grin. Brown unleashes a flood of instant music with Barnes adding occasional color, while Parker and Drake fly full throttle. Barnes follows Brown with his own iery flow, stepping aside for Drake's thresher.

Brown caresses the theme on "Poem for June Jordan with Barnes ornamenting, muted. The alto soars and sings the mid-tempo tune with Barnes patiently unveiling his variations. Parker's Jimmy Garrison-like bass line defines "Sound Unity and creates the foundation for over twenty minutes of virtuoso invention with Barnes tearing through the changes like a hummingbird. Brown chews and redefines the line.

Played at walking tempo, Parker's "Harlem paints impressions of his aunt's old neighborhood. The sly bluesy theme gives Barnes and Brown good ideas, while "Groove recovers Drake's reggae roots with Parker all righteous on bass.

This generous live recording catches one of the premier bands working today—inspired and inspiring, making the sacred accessible, weaving sound from The Real.


Track Listing: Hawaii; Wood Flute Song; Poem for June Jordan; Sound Unity; Harlem; Groove.

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

Title: Sound Unity | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: AUM Fidelity

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