William Parker


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William Parker's Violin Trio band is one of the more surprising and delightful bands to come out of New York's modern free jazz scene. Parker and his truly singular tone and ingenious modes of attack, violinist Billy Bang, and drummer Hamid Drake conjure the notion of song as it processes itself not only through the simulation and presentation of improvisation but also through the process of memory -- allegorical, perceptual, cultural, and personal -- and they turn it back in itself in creating something brand new from the various shards that lay upon the pavement in the dark, highlighted only by an errant street lamp. The possibilities for music like this -- lyric, harmonic, and tonal -- is one of the great surprises this trio brings with them. The six selections here are not "compositions" in the formalist sense but are in fact songs. They are "tunes," with rhythmic, harmonic, and melodic bodies that are flexible and transparent enough to allow for each player to move about freely, carry with him something from the body of each piece, and wind it around the other two in a free manner without being held to the concept of breaking down barriers -- because they are artificial anyway. Bang's minor key solo on "Sunday Morning Church" against Parker's rhythmic, hypnotic bassline recalls a singer mournfully chronicling regret and then affirmation. The funky blues at the heart of "Singing Spirits," with Parker popping his bass under Bang's elongated line, and Drake's tom tom work that presents the appearance of shuffle while dancing all around it are stunning in their assuredness of musical purpose. When Bang takes it outside, Parker doesn't race to catch him but flows through a series of changes with ever more stress put upon tension as Drake dances him through. The final cut, "Holiday for Flowers," is a shimmering exercise in the dynamics of balladry and its various seams, where a free for all could develop at any time. Bang lies close to the melody and Parker goes walking, and walking through the blues, swing, soul, and always back to the original blues, those of New Orleans in 1929 and Kansas City in 1931. This is a restrained and lovely album that possesses real firepower in places, but it's almost never necessary because the level of communication runs so deep between these players that everything feels light as a breeze, poignant as a memory, and as fresh as a wound.

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