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Album Review

The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra isn't the best place to hear William Parker the bassist (he only plays on three tracks here) as much as Parker the composer and keeper of the collective improvisation aesthetic flame. The freewheeling 25-piece (plus guests) unit can be a lumbering behemoth, but one that's very nimble on its feet, and this strong two-CD set meets a prime goal of this music by taking the listener on a musical and emotional voyage. The title track fades in with a lurching, elephantine riff before Rob Brown's alto feature, but Sunrise in the Tone World isn't so much about the solos as the ensemble beast behind it. The clearest individual voice here (and on the whole disc) may be Gregg Bendian's vibes, and a nice dynamic fade down near the end permits Lisa Sokolov's voice to join in the main melody line. "The Bluest J" is more high-energy and free sounding, moving from blowsy trombones to a Parker-Cooper Moore duet and then the full ensemble with the sections again playing in call-and-response counterpoint. Tandem solos involving Assif Tsahar and Marco Eneidi keep the interplay, and the organic flow isn't lost as the other players pick their spots to interject comments within the ensemble mass. "Voice Dancer Kidd," dedicated to New Orleans reedman Edward "Kidd" Jordan, is closer to a ballad before it shifts over to a lurching, syncopated Afro-Cuban riff anchor. "Mayan Space Station" fades in kind of bluesy, suggesting the Sun Ra Arkestra in swing mode, sitting on a riff under Roy Campbell's trumpet solo with Bendian's bubbling metallic vibes and Cooper Moore's piano clusters prominent in the support. Darryl Foster's soprano sax leaps out, but if you think you've heard every imaginable instrumental permutation on a jazz record, here Foster gives way to John King playing...a DOBRO solo?

Described in Parker's liner notes as a "form of collective solo," the 40-minute "Huey Sees Light Through a Leaf" works its way through a series of segments featuring all the orchestra's sections, albeit with the saxes dominant. The ensemble achieves a broad, almost cinematic wall of sound at the 25-minute mark, then strips layers away to reveal the ebbs and flows in the main theme before Jason Hwang's violin finally peeks out to take the lead in laying the piece to rest. "Sunship for Dexter" goes out to Dexter Gordon, and it's a nice change of pace with its regular rhythm and chord structure that develops a Trane-meets-Sun Ra tinge behind Ben Koen's tenor solo. The collective sax section squawk finale bleeds into the horn textures opening "And Again," before that strips down to a pastoral Cooper Moore/Lisa Sokolov feature. The more reflective "The Painter and the Poet" is an Eneidi/Bendian duet, the latter's round tones setting off the mellifluous, gorgeous playing of the alto player. It's a nice touchdown from the long voyage Parker and company have taken, one that will certainly satisfy genre fans and reward adventurous listeners poised to take the plunge. Lotta musicians making lotsa music and, crucially, creating lots of moods and colors throughout Sunrise in the Tone World.

Sunrise In the Tone World, William Parker & The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra
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