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William Parker Organ Quartet: Uncle Joe's Spirit House

Lyn Horton By

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Defining his direction is one recognizable talent that composer/musician William Parker constantly demonstrates, though not in so many words; but within his art, the direction is clear as day. The musicians he chooses to fulfill his intentions are also exactly whom he needs, for he understands how they operate to blend in joyous confluence that is the realization of his music.

In Uncle Joe's Spirit House, Parker's Organ Quartet constructs an aural Space addressing his own personal history. Dedicated to his Aunt Carrie Lee Edwards and Uncle Joe, wed 65 years, the recording is replete with Parker's compositions. Though referring, at times, to the general conditions of Blacks, both past and present, Parker's music is imbued, in the profoundest sense of the word, with feelings, born out of close ties with family, community, racial heritage and spirituality. Each piece identifies a part of Parker's intensely vibrant life.

The instrumentation is pure genius. In terms of balance, nothing is out of whack. Each piece strolls into the next without any useless hiatus. New instrumental combinations garner attention, as the sound continues to unfold. Every instrument has its time, the configuration of its upfront expression upholding the certainty that an engaging musical change is on the verge of happening, exemplified well in "Theme For The Tasters."

Saxophonist Darryl Foster plays his sax similarly to the way the late Fred Anderson did, with notes tending to the range of his tenor that are quick, precise, tender and sure, as is especially evident in "Buddha's Joy" and "Ennio's Tag." In "The Struggle," he lends a signature touch to the coupling of ostinatos and delicate trills, as they travel over the breadth of the foundation that the bass and organ provide for him. Two peas in a pod, Parker and drummer Gerald Cleaver share an insurmountable compatibility; the drums and bass coinciding clearly, throughout the recording.

Although it could be assumed that the organ might overpower the remaining bass, sax, and drums, this is not the case. Rather, the organ furnishes a curiously close-cropped, pinching ambiance, as in the title track or "Document for LJ." But multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore's exceedingly memorable performance comes in the bossa nova, "Ennio's Tag," a 1990 composition dedicated to Parker's son. Never has a dance gushed forth so easily on an album from the "avant-garde" camp, even though it is based on the music of film composer Ennio Morricone, a favorite of Parker during his teen years. Foster plugs into the rhythm just as beautifully as Cooper-Moore does; swaying to the sweetness of "Ennio's Tag" is inevitable.

In fact, the varying rhythms abound in this record from the steady, often ornamented lines on the bass, and the masterful ticking on the ride cymbal, to those delivered through Cooper-Moore and Foster's inherent senses. The music swings in ways that Wynton Marsalis might just envy. Uncle Joe's Spirit House is one of the best records of the year, across the board—conceptually, compositionally and in performance.

Track Listing: Uncle Joe's Spirit House; Jacques' Groove; Ennio's Tag; Document for LJ; Let's Go Down to the River; Buddha's Joy; The Struggle; Theme for the Tasters; Oasis.

Personnel: William Parker: bass; Darryl Foster: tenor saxophone; Cooper-Moore: organ; Gerald Cleaver: drums.

Title: Uncle Joe's Spirit House | Year Released: 2010 | Record Label: AUM Fidelity


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