William Parker's own liner notes say that In Order to Survive is the name of this quartet and Compassion Seizes Bed-Stuy is the final installment of a trilogy including the solo bass Testimony and a sextet album titled In Order to Survive. Got that? Sounds a little convoluted, but what is clear on this CD is the ability to hear Parker playing. Parker's long-standing rep as the premier avant/free/whatever bassist, rooted in long associations with Cecil Taylor and David S. Ware, is sometimes hard to verify since the density of the music he's involved in can be imposing. Not here, but that's down to the musical nature of Parker's collaborators, not any predesigned plan to showcase his playing. Cooper Moore is a generally spare, impressionistic pianist not overly concerned with playing full melodic lines, Susie Ibarra's drumming is all percussive flurries delivered with a light touch, and altoist Rob Brown takes all the time he needs to make his melodic and solo statements and no more than that. All of which leave plenty of room to roam in the middle for Parker, who fills up plenty of space -- he's the polar opposite of Charlie Haden. "Compassion" opens with an arco solo before Parker switches over to plucking and Brown doesn't come in with quavering, almost Arthur Blythe-like vibrato until five minutes into the piece. His cascading, somersaulting alto lines drive the homage "For Robeson," with Moore's block chords creating a simple but extremely effective backing, and the pianist takes charge of "Holiday for Hypocrites" before handing it off to Brown. The up-tempo "Dejanos en Paz" starts with fragmented riff shards that resolve into free improvisation that would have benefited from the dynamics that charge the mutant blues shuffle "Goggle." And if "Unrestricted (For Julius Hemphill)" is essentially a Moore/Ibarra duet that touches on gospel, "The Eye of the Window" ebbs and flows very well in its quest for John Coltrane-style spirit and intensity. Which is fitting because, right down to the cover art painted during a live performance, Parker holds true to the aesthetic of the collective creativity that took root in the late '60s in Trane's wake. Not that there's anything remotely dated about the music on Compassion Seizes Bed-Stuy. Slack moments are rare and the evenly balanced contributions of all four musicians make this a fine example of freewheeling collective improvisation.
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AllMusic Review by Don Snowden