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William Parker: Sound Unity

William Parker: Sound Unity

Label:AUM Fidelity
Release Date:2005

William Parker performs with vocalist Leena Conquest and pianist Eri Yamamoto, May 6.

By Bret McCabe | Posted 5/4/2005

Bassist William Parker has more tricks in his bag than Felix the Cat. Sound Unity captures his quartet of alto saxophonist Rob Brown, trumpeter Lewis Barnes, and drummer Hamid Drake live in 2004 at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival and the Montreal’s Souni per Il Popolo with the group in a buoyant mood, painting traditional-feeling post-bop out of colorful free abstractions. Think of these six numbers as simple-seeming still lifes made entirely of dramatic Motherwellian insistencies, impish Basquiatian doodles, and dazzling de Kooning slashes.

And these guys pull it off with an effortless lack of pretension and lithe brio. Parker has lived throughout jazz’s ghettoing as the provenance of the black avant-garde and pointy-headed white intelligentsia, even though Parker’s moods have always found swings in even the most opaque meters. Drake sends ripples of percussion over Parker’s tumbling lines, the rhythm guys taking turns leading the dance as Brown and Barnes trade off bubbly runs and hair-raising peals in “Wood Flute Song.” Barnes echoes Brown’s reflective motif traced in gentle notes as tender as warm butter over splashes of cymbal rattle and drum rolls in the ballad “Poem for June Jordan,” with Parker stringing a pulse out of slow, hopscotching notes that hold the soft horns and the agitated drums together. Toss out a feeling and these guys could pull its sound out of thin air, and if given the chance, Parker could find the soul in a pair of stuffy critics bumping pointy heads—if he hasn’t recorded that idea already.

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