William Parker

Long Hidden: The Olmec Series

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William Parker's abiding interest in the "ancient DNA/cultural codex that connects Africa to the Americas" is represented respectively by his use on several tracks of the doson ngoni, an eight-stringed version of the traditional Manding hunting guitar, and the Olmec Group, a merengue quartet of two percussionists, accordion, and alto sax joined by Dave Sewelson on saxophones and Todd Nicholson on bass. The curious combination of merengue's high-energy, Parker's rattling gourd, and free jazz sax sounds strangely clinical in this studio recording, but works well enough when driven forward by a strong bass riff ("Codex"). However, it pales into insignificance when compared to Parker's solo tracks. While his doson ngoni ramblings are pleasant enough, his bass work is magnificent, from the somber take on the spiritual "There Is a Balm in Gilead" to the impassioned "Compassion Seizes Bed-Stuy" (first heard on the 1996 Homestead album of the same name by Parker and In Order to Survive) to the celestial high harmonics of "Cathedral of Light." And another epic solo comes as a bonus cut in the form of "In Case of Accident," originally released on 1994 on Parker's Centering imprint and long unavailable.

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