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Very discreetly on the back of The All-Star Game 's black and white digipak packaging reads "Vol. II of the Silva/Parker Duos," and it's this collaboration that distinguishes this live jam session from other free jazz quintet workouts. William Parker's unwavering commitment to swing and rhythmic flexibility, paired with Alan Silva's original sense of time and unerring flair for the grand gesture, complement and counterbalance these same qualities in the dueling horn players, Kidd Jordan and Marshall Allen. Jordan's tenor is all tonal shading, growling and roaring on one run, squealing and whinnying on the next. Allen's alto darts in from the side, floats in from the top, doubles back from the front, and kickstarts the energy from below. Each of these players is an expert musician in every conceivable form of group interplay, from duos and trios to big bands, and The All Star Game touches on all of them through improvisational creativity, disciplined restraint, or simple flat-out energy.
With Allen and Silva on one side and Jordan and Parker on the other, the apex of this five- pointed star is drummer Hamid Drake, acting as the fulcrum for each see-saw of sound. Through it all his cymbals shimmer and his drum kit rolls, rumbles, and punctuates each statement, whether whispered in the program's softest moments, or shouted in its hardest.
The All-Star Game is like those old math movies we'd see in school, where animators would demonstrate how large rectangles were made up of smaller squares, and stars were constructed from endlessly interconnected triangles, lines linking with each other in infinite combinations. In the finest improvising units, one musician does something, then another reacts to that, then another does something, and in a few bars, they're all reacting to each other, with independence and individual voices, but with respect for the whole, and with a unifying vision.
The unifying vision here is hard blowing matched to equally hard swing, with the occasional relaxed passage to give us all a chance to catch our breath. For nearly 75 minutes they have at it, and not a single note is wasted.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.