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I Plan to Stay a Believer - The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield

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Album Review

Released by AUM Fidelity as a double CD in 2010, I Plan to Stay a Believer is bassist William Parker's heart and soul tribute to vocalist and songwriter Curtis Mayfield. Parker, an extraordinarily resourceful improviser and internationally respected leader of creative ensembles, joyously celebrates the interwoven traditions of African-American musical culture by saluting an artist whose best works still define an entire mode of positive, uplifting musical expression. Mayfield rose to prominence with Jerry Butler and the Impressions in the late ‘50s, helped that group to become mainstays of Chicago soul throughout the ‘60s, and achieved superstar status in his own right during the early ‘70s. Parker's Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield Project is vividly documented in this collection. It includes material from the initial Parisian concert performance of March 2001 (which featured the voices of some 90 children); an April 2002 appearance in Amherst, Massachusetts; a live celebration at Chiasso, Switzerland in February 2007; a well-received presentation before a New York audience in June 2008, and two festive shows which took place in Botticino and Cormans, Italy in October 2008. This hefty offering comes as a pleasant and welcome surprise. It is in some ways comparable to the late 20th century "Avant-Pop" excursions of Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy, as well as Bowie's unforgettable collaborations with his wife Fontella Bass. A fine vocalist from Texas named Leena Conquest performed beautifully throughout Parker's Mayfield tribute series, and there were visitations from Brooklyn's New Life Tabernacle Generation of Praise Choir.

With Parker as veritable anchors of the Project were pianist Dave Burrell and drummer Hamid Drake as well as poet Amiri Baraka. Extra motivation was provided by trumpeter Lewis Barnes, saxophonist Darryl Foster, and Sabir Mateen, who handled saxophones and flute. Additional participants have been identified as pianist Lafayette Gilchrist and percussionist Guillermo E. Brown. In addition to his contrabass, Parker may be heard playing on an African xylophone-like instrument known as the balofon, as well as the doson'ngoni, a species of West African lute. Some may recall that trumpeter Don Cherry always used to express great love and reverence for the doson'ngoni. AUM Fidelity's double-CD release is a powerful sequel to the Rai Trade label's The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield which was issued in 2007. Material for that album was drawn exclusively from a 2004 festival performance, which took place in Rome. Any and all recordings made by William Parker and his troupe in honor of Curtis Mayfield really should be obtained and played at high volume for all to hear. This is music of global relevance and cosmic importance. It is also distinctly approachable and, one might even say, embraceable.


Born: 10 January 1952 in New York, NY

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

In the early '90s, the direct musical heirs of Taylor, Ayler, and Coleman were mostly ignored by New York jazz critics, who found more to like about the hard bop revivalists who dominated major-label recording. Hence, the public visibility of musicians devoted to an "energy music" aesthetic was minimal. Despite its low profile, however, that strain of free jazz was kept alive by a fairly large group of Lower East Side musicians, many of whom gathered around the music's pre-eminent bassist, William...
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I Plan to Stay a Believer - The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield, William Parker
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