William Parker

Uncle Joe's Spirit House

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Bassist William Parker's exceptionally fine and friendly-to-listen-to album Uncle Joe's Spirit House has been warmly received as a comparatively "inside" listening experience, because unlike virtually anything else in his discography prior to its release in 2010, this is a study in organ combo jazz. A clearly articulated musical chemistry exists between Parker, saxophonist Darryl Foster, organist Cooper Moore, and drummer Gerald Cleaver. Their achievement extends a glorious tradition rooted in Lockjaw Davis and Stanley Turrentine's collaborations with Shirley Scott. It is even more directly descended from the toothier combinations of Roland Kirk and Brother Jack McDuff or David Murray and Don Pullen. The deeper truth behind this recording is that it constitutes a joyous honoring of Parker's Uncle Joe and Aunt Carrie Lee Edwards, residents of the Bronx who were both in their early nineties and preparing to observe their 65th wedding anniversary when this recording came about. Parker's thoughtful commentary in the album notes references a personal evolution during which he spent three decades exploring what he describes as his "own world." With the formation of the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra in 1994 came a steadily expanding realization that "the real art is the art of living." A particularly moving passage in the text acknowledges the art of "raising one's family through hard work, be it carpenter, electrician, mailman, policeman, garbage man, and perhaps the most difficult of all jobs, the stay at home mother." Parker honors his Aunt Carrie and Uncle Joe as masters of the art of living, and in a larger sense he is revering all of his ancestors with this recording. It is thematically linked to Parker's 2000 AUM Fidelity release O'Neal's Porch, an apparent salute to yet another uncle. Whether or not that linkage extends to the albums Bob's Pink Cadillac and Luc's Lantern remains to be articulated by the artist, whose highly evolved poetic sensibilities have borne fruit in ways which utterly defy all critical preconceptions. What is certain is that with every recording he sends out into the world, William Parker's personal blend of spirituality, surreality, and musicality references every aspect of his -- and our -- existence.

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