For a little over a year now AUM Fidelity has been promising the eminent release of a duo recording from Hamid Drake and William Parker. Since the two have worked together and created powerful pulses with a variety of other musicians, a duo setting provided the promise of music based primarily -although, due to the expressiveness as Drake and Parker, not exclusively-on the beat. This possibility sounded beautiful from the beginning and the extended wait for this disc, at least in one person's mind, only increased this sense. The hope was not placed in vain; Volume 1: Piercing the Veil was well worth the wait.
"Black Cherry" is a less than three minute long exercise in the duo's bailiwick. Parker steps out with a steady line allowing Drake plenty of room to do plenty of snare tasks ranging from accents to less restricted explorations. The two change roles for "Chatima" with Drake concentrating on the hi-hat patterns and then hi-hat/snare combinations behind the abrupt, quick, and most certainly funky arco of Parker. Parker steps away from the upright for the beautiful cuts "Heavenly Walk" and "Japeru." Listening to Parker play a bombard or a shakahachi with a heavy pulse is all the proof a person needs to understand that instruments are only vehicles for what put people can put into them. They don't have a life of their own and brilliant musical minds should not be limited to just one. The heavy and oh so busy metaphorical hand of Drake returns by for the title cut and "Loom Song." Along with that, Parker comes up with similar lines to what he plays in a duo with Matthew Shipp only with added punch and drive. Parker once again leaves behind the bass for the final two cuts, "Chaung Tzu's Dream" and "Bodies Die/Spirits Live." Whether it is the shrill sound of some cousin of the flute or a slit drum, Parker dangles out beautiful notes for all to hear as he dances and prances with Drake's hand drums.
Although it might not appear to be the case at first, Piercing the Veil is both a companion projects like Roy Campbell's Ethnic Stew and Brew and Matthew Shipp's Pastoral Composure and a superior document. All three discs feature top notch "outside" musicians -it should be noted that Parker played on both while Drake was part of the former- playing within more standard forms. But whereas Campbell's and Shipp's recordings succeeded to the extent that they stepped away from bop and post-bop forms, Piercing the Veil excels because it embraces what should be conventional and tired. It is "world music" made wondrous.