Wednesday, August 26, 2015

William Parker, For Those Who Are, Still, Review: Part One of Three

William Parker has a gigantic presence on the US avant improvised-jazz scene today. Operating primarily out of New York, he is one of the very most innovative and accomplished bassists in the new jazz world, a bandleader and concert organizer of enormous stature, and a composer-conceptualist of the highest rank. He gives us an extended offering of his substantial composer-leader gifts in a new 3-CD box set just out, For Those Who Are, Still (AUM Fidelity 092/93/94). The overall theme of all the music is life and death itself, living life with unstinting compassion for others, living with universal respect for fellow humans on this earth in peaceful, fruitful co-existence.

Because the three volumes contained in the set cover so much ground, I am reviewing each volume separately on these pages over the next three days. Today, the first volume, "For Fannie Lou Hamer + Vermeer."

"For Fannie Lou Hamer" is a half-hour work commissioned by and performed at the Kitchen in New York, 2000. It is for the ten-member Kitchen "House Blend" ensemble and Leena Conquest on vocals and recitation. Ms. Hamer was a courageous civil rights leader who endured much and made a huge impact in forwarding the landmark Voting Rights Act among many other things.

The music has a world flavor with Afro-American and pan-international elements joining together with long developed compositional sequences, vocal-lyric melodic lines and recitations on Hamer's devastating treatment by the forces of reaction. It is a work that holds together in a unified way yet combines new thing, new music and new world components. It is very moving and memorable.

The second part of the volume focuses on nine compositions-improvisations for Leena Conquest plus William Parker on bass and hocchiku, Darryl Foster on soprano and tenor, and Eri Yamamoto on piano. The music for this second ensemble is structured compositionally in excellent ways, sometimes with song form, sometimes motive ostinatos, etc., but also allows for a good amount of improvisation. Everyone contributes importantly to the end result. The music stands out with its many twists and turns.

So that is what volume one is about. It is fascinating, masterful music that straddles compositional and improvisational worlds, shows off the considerable artistry of Leena Conquest and the other participants (including Maestro Parker's iconic bass work), and gives us a number of facets of William Parker's composing and conceptualizing brilliance.

Tomorrow I will describe the second volume. And on Friday volume three.

Meanwhile the first CD in the set begins the program with music that is strong and memorable.

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