William Parker

Zen Mountains/Zen Streets: A Duet For Poet & Improvised Bass

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East-Coast mountain poet David Budbill is deeply rooted in the beat and Buddhist traditions. While his words and his tropes are very familiar, his language is not. There isn't a hint of pretension or insider wise-ass "cooler-than-thou" smugness in his presentation, though his self-confidence is almost unmatchable -- except by bassist William Parker, that is, king of the New York streets. Hence the title of this double-CD collection: Zen Mountains/Zen Streets. This set was recorded during seven concerts in Vermont, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Now it's true that the combination of read poetry and double bass sounds engaging for, like, half-an-hour, not two hours. But there's far more to these proceedings than this. Parker ad Budbill each plays everything from sundry percussion items to pocket trumpets, whistles, bells, valve trombone, shakuhachi, Gralle (Barcelonan double reed), bamboo flutes, and gongs. Parker paints Budbill's words sparely, yet with deep emotion and deft coloring schemes; he pulls invisible figures from the air and sets them to work in tandem with the words, as well as in opposition to them. He voices agreement and dissent. Budbill's work has an "I" centeredness to it, but it's far from off-putting. Over the three selections on disc one and the pair on disc two, the listener gets a real opportunity to move inside the world of Budbill's language and, because of Parker's frighteningly keen interpretation of the lyrics, can enter it fully. Recorded in 1999, this is a fresh attempt to realize what Kerouac, Ginsberg, McClure, and others touched briefly five decades ago, and a clear, mature, and even visionary admonition to the recent glut of "performance" poets -- especially those left over from the tired and bitter '60s generation. This is spirited, spiritual music and verse for a lost world.

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