William Parker continues to churn out CDs on a pace that might rival Steve Lacy, Satoko Fujii, or David Murray's epic proportions. While each project reaches ever higher levels, this recording from the twelfth annual Vision Festival in New York City might be close to his zenith. Three long compositions allow his some 16-piece band of horns, woodwinds, and strings to not only cut loose with potent solos as you would expect, but exist as a single crystalline entity with multiple and equal facets of ethnic, improvisational, and modern compositional forms. The music is as stunning as any Parker has devised in his career, but there are some caveats. For one, Parker plays no acoustic upright bass, leaving that to Shayne Dulberger. The oud of Brahim Frigbane and electric guitar of Joe Morris adds a lean and sparse element. But the music is generally broad ranging, expansive, and layered, thanks to the immense talents of accomplished modernists like trumpeter Lewis Barnes, alto saxophonist Rob Brown, tenor saxophonist and clarinetist Sabir Mateen, violinist Jason Kao Hwang, Jessica Pavone on the viola, and twin drummers Gerald Cleaver and Hamid Drake. Of the three long pieces, "Lights of Lake George" is a true magnum opus. A 7/8 modal bassline joins the dancing baritone of David Sewelson and Frigbane's oud, then the wordless East Indian vocals of Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay make way for string solos from the brilliant Hwang and Pavone, the burnished trumpet of Barnes, the shenai or musette of Cole and Parker, and clarinet of Mateen. The piece is not so much about improvisation as the consistent symmetry and balance from the entire band throughout weaving intricate colors. The double reeds open on the 4/4 "Neptune's Mirror," as the distinct and jangly guitar of Morris takes over, Sewelson leads horn punctuations with a cello aside by Shiau-She Yu, then cello and oud. The piece has an eerie yet earthy feel as all strings chime in, and Bandyopadhyay recites a poem of enlightenment, while reminding us of either loved or allegedly hated humans who have passed that "we can not bring them back to life." The opener "Morning Mantra" is a modal ostinato bass and drums riff with a quick guitar from Morris under long tones from the ensemble dominated by the high-pitched double reeds in a universal tonality, with Bandyopadhyay again poetically waxing on the wind, light, and life over a multilayered framework of dense tones, themes and world-wide excursions. One who listens closely, and more than once, will reap great rewards from this, another excellent document in the growing and substantive discography of the consistently forward thinking Parker.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos