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Album Review

Wood Flute Songs: Anthology/Live 2006-2012 marks the second box set of unissued material by bassist William Parker in two years. The first, Centering: Unreleased Early Recordings, 1976-1987, was released by Lithuania's NoBusiness label in 2012. Juxtaposing the two is compelling because even with all the intervening years unaccounted for, one can hear the continuity of Parker's creative sonic language (he is also a fine poet and cultural theorist). This eight-disc set from AUM Fidelity compiles live concerts in a variety of group contexts, from quartet sides to a 12-piece ensemble. The core of each group, however, is the band that Parker assembled to perform his works in 2000, featuring saxophonist Rob Brown, drummer Hamid Drake, and trumpeter Lewis Barnes. The first four discs portray two sets each at Yoshi's in 2006 and at Houston's DiverseWorks in 2007. Taken separately and together, they reveal these men not only understand Parker's vision, but are capable of making a living, multi-dimensional entity. As a band they elevate the work beyond the conceptual. Each of these sets is breathtaking in scope. Highlights include "Tears for the Children of Rwanda" on disc one, the "Alphaville" suite on disc two, "Hawaii" on disc three, and "O'Neal's Porch" and "Ojibway Song" on disc four. Disc five, recorded at the Vision Festival in 2009, is a septet with Billy Bang, James Spaulding, and Bobby Bradford. The expanded reading of "O'Neal's Porch," by this group, and the sprawling "Deep Flower/Ascent of the Big Spirit" medley are awe inspiring — even when the thread gets dropped. The Raining on the Moon sextet was recorded in Montreal. Vocalist Leena Conquest delivers Parker's songs with deep soul, as pianist Eri Yamamoto adds a grounded sense of groove and painterly textures to the horns and rhythm section. The tunes "3 + 3 = Jackie McLean," "Late Man Of This Planet," and closer "Sweet Breeze" reveal Parker's gift as a lyricist, and the ability of this band to serve a song, without compromising improvisational force. The large-ensemble disc was recorded in Switzerland; it may take more than one listen to fully appreciate, but there is no mistaking the beauty in the myriad shapes and colors in "Wood Flute Song" and "Earth in Pain." Parker's quartet, augmented by pianist Cooper-Moore, is captured in full flight on the final disc. "Slipping into Light," "Falling Promise," and "Theme for Rondo Hattan" showcase how easily the pianist — long an associate and collaborator — integrates seamlessly in this elevated soundworld. Wood Flute Songs is of exceptional quality and breadth even in its more difficult moments; it belongs the collection of every serious fan of new jazz.


Born: January 10, 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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Wood Flute Songs: Anthology / Live 2006-2012, William Parker
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