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William Parker New Heart Trio at The Chapel

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William Parker New Heart Trio
The Chapel
San Francisco, CA
May 15, 2023

William Parker is a free jazz phenom, as his current New Heart Trio heartedly demonstrated. Accompanied by the legendary William Hooker on the drum set and firebrand Isaiah Collier on tenor saxophone and hand percussion, Parker, attired in a Tophi (Fez-like Indonesian cap) and knee-length variegated striped smock, began the set with a free-jazz crash and swing motif, Collier's horn ablaze. His sound is otherworldly both in tone and phrasing and is highlighted by screeches and warbles at just the right moments.

The Chapel, located at 777 Valencia Street in San Francisco, is an ideal venue for this group—with its a darkened cave-like ambiance and Bohemian clientele. There is a bar in the rear—in addition to one in the next room—with seating forming a U-shape in front of the pink-lit stage, and a standing / dancing space filling the U. Underground hip, indeed.

Parker, who studied with Jimmy Garrison, Richard Davis, and Wilbur Ware in his youth, employs a multi-sensory approach to catapult the crowd into outré heaven. It is an experience of beauty within chaos. It sounds like Nachtmusik escaping from a black hole. He was even once declared in the Village Voice "the most consistently brilliant free jazz bassist of all time" and was an integral part of Cecil Taylor's bands for many years.

He uses a most unusual bow for his double bass. It is a slightly convex piece of bent wood with a rosined horse-hair ribbon. In addition to his bass, Parker occasionally switches to a double-reeded instrument with a bell-shaped mouth that resembles a soprano saxophone, almost like an Indian snake harmer's horn, which has been called an Argol. He also grooved a bit on a Shakuhachi flute.

The set comprised "tunes," which sounded more like adventurous, hypnotic sectioned motifs to this reviewer's ear.

A word must be said about drummer William Hooker, who sounded a bit like the excellent, beat-heavy Al Foster, but with highlighting rhythmic explosions. Saxophonist Isaiah Collier evoked reminiscences of Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, and even Pharoah Sanders. It was a perfect trio.

A second set ensued, which seemed like a spirited continuation of the first. Parker unassumingly displayed a deep wisdom as he interspersed the evening's proceedings with his thoughtful disquisitions about art and the artist's role in society. It was an unforgettable performance.

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