A double bass posting today - sorry about the pun - because I'm adding my review of this William Parker gem to the page.
I still love this CD every bit as much as I did when I first heard it, and it gets my vote as a contemporary classic that will surely sound as good 50 years from now. If anybody has heard the new Eri Yamamoto album, I'd be keen to know what they think.
There'll be no triple bass posting, although I am working on a review of an interesting new album by Scott Colley at the moment, which just so happens to feature Parker's THIRSTY EAR label-mate Craig Taborn. Anybody wanting more bass-lines can always check back to my recent Henri Texier and Miroslav Vitous postings. Next up will probably be some more cycling...
THIRSTY EAR (57158-2)
Adena; Song For Tyler; Mourning Sunset; Evening Star Song; Luc’s Lantern; Jaki; Bud In Alphaville; Charcoal Flower; Phoenix; Candlesticks On The Lake.
Eri Yamamoto (p); William Parker (b); Michael Thompson (d).
It isn’t very often that I listen to a disc a dozen times before committing my thoughts to print, yet ‘Luc’s Lantern’ made such an impression that I found myself with little alternative. This is a short and perfectly formed disc, rather like the earlier ‘Raining On The Moon’ (also on Thirsty Ear), and one that simply demands repeated listening. I needed to be sure that the praise I will lavish on it is justified, and rather like an industrial stress-test, the only true indication of soundness and quality comes via repetitive use. If anything, the disc got better with each play, even keeping the new Andrew Hill ‘Mosaic Select’ box on the shelf and in its shrink-wrap for over a week!
Those who’ve heard Parker in piano trio formations with Cecil Taylor (the Feel Trio) or Matthew Shipp will know that he can surf the high waves. ‘Luc’s Lantern’ is a different proposition entirely. This music has directness and a simplicity that snares you, an infectious groove that puts a smile on your face, melodic themes to burn, and deeper musical strata that only reveal themselves more gradually. Superficially Parker is taking on the Bad Plus or EST, giving a Nujazz face-lift ot an old format. Yet despite apparent concessions to the marketplace, the music is in no sense compromised. This trio’s omnidirectional elasticity puts them in a very special place, a unit capable of launching off together in any direction at the drop of a hat.
Eri Yamamoto has the rhapsodic and tightly linear approach of the Paul Bley school of piano, a more percussive side only emerging on the bustling title track. ‘Phoenix’ could easily be mistaken for a Bley piece in a blindfold test, but her liking for repetitive motifs establishes her separate identity. Drummer Michael Thompson reminds me of Hamid Drake’s excursions into this same territory, wonderfully loose in his precision, stretching time without ever losing sight of the markers.
Each composition, and they are all compositions, is memorable in its own way. My favourites are the relaxed swing of ‘Jaki’, the noir-ish tension of ‘Bud In Alphaville’ and the attention grabbing opener ‘Adena’, with its hard-grooving bass pulse. No doubt others will find their own personal favourites, and this is the type of disc with the potential to offer ten favourite selections.
No words of caution to offer any but the most hard-line of free-jazz fundamentalists, who may be quick to label this a ‘sell out’. For the majority, this is jazz at its best, and proof positive that Parker is one of today’s pre-eminent protagonists in the music.
(Jazz Review, May 2005)