On the heels of two very intriguing CDs (Painter's Spring and Mayor of Punkville), luminary bassist William Parker let loose another for 2000 on his own Centering Music label. O'Neal's Porch, a tribute of sorts to Parker's late uncle, features a quartet with Rob Brown on alto sax, Lewis Barnes blowing trumpet, and Hamid Drake, Parker's compatriot since 1998, banging drums. While Brown and Barnes are familiar playing with the bassist (both have performed in his large ensembles), Parker and Drake comprise the best rhythm section in jazz; together, they should go down in the history books as one of the most fruitful and interesting musical relationships this side of Ellington and Strayhorn, Diz and Bird, and Miles and Trane. The result is a strangely digestible and swinging affair of Eric Dolphy-influenced bop. That's not to say that O'Neal's Porch is a straight-ahead recording, as Brown burns on "Sun" and "Leaf" while Barnes plays colorful textures and his own blistering solos throughout. Meanwhile, Drake probes his inventive open-framed progressions and joins together with Parker for simultaneous swinging and exploring. All eight songs are crisply recorded Parker originals that spotlight his interest in sound as a physical and emotional event, while proving that one does not have to play the freest of free jazz to be inventive. Most importantly, this collection also demonstrates that jazz can be propelled within its traditions as a stepping stone and not necessarily as a model to copy. O'Neal's Porch and Parker's brand of inside/outside compositions mark territory that proves the so-called avant is not that philosophically far away from the modern mainstream revivalists.
AllMusic Review by Sam Samuelson