Saturday, September 6, 2008

William Parker Quartet - Petit Oiseau (AUM Fidelity, 2008) ****

This is the third release of the William Parker Quartet, consisting of Rob Brown on alto, Lewis Barnes on trumpet, Hamid Drake on drums and the leader on bass. The two previous albums "O'Neal's Porch" (of which I have a spare copy in case something goes wrong with the first one) and the live record "Sound Unity", both get a 5-star rating (in my pre-blog personal list of all records I ever listened to). William Parker has many bands and many styles of modern jazz, ranging from intimate world music to avant-garde big band, with in between vocal jazz, free jazz, and many others. This quartet is without a doubt one of the best in my opinion, because of its strong musicianship, its powerful freedom that is anchored in blues and traditional jazz, and which is, above all, so deeply emotional. The title, "Petit Oiseau" refers to a tone poem by William Parker about a little bird that is born without wings, and his mother tells him that he has to learn to fly from within, which he does successfully and he flies higher than any other bird. The band brings their usual wonderful combination of powerful and rhythmic vamps, rhythm and tempo changes with strong melodies and long expressive soloing. Yet in contrast to their previous releases, there is a much stronger mainstream base here, with clear themes, played in unison by the horns. To me, personally, I prefer the previous albums of this band, because they are more direct and less polished than this one. The higher refinement creates a little more distance between performer and listener, at least this listener likes it a little rawer. The album is bookended by two long tracks, the first a suite, with various themes and rhythms, the last one a long and sad tribute to trumpeter Alan Shorter. The second track "Talap's Theme" is inspired by the Sami people of northern Scandinavia, but the song's basic structure, rhythm and call-and-response theme sounds almost African. Other influences emerge too : "Dust From A Mountain" is world music, with just Parker on cedar flute and Drake on frame drums in the first half of the piece, and "Malachi's Mode" has Afro-Carribean influences and is probably the album's most joyous track. This is by all means an excellent album, one which is highly accessible and should, let's hope it, offer the William Parker Quartet the wider audience it deserves.

© stef

6 comments:

Guy said...

ah, good to hear there's another Quartet album coming up. the past summer i've been playing "o'neal's porch" and "sound unity", which i acquired only recently, over and over again. such wonderful albums. still digesting "double sunrise...", but it's worth the effort

by the way: how was the roy campbell quartet w/ parker?

stef said...

Guy,

The performance was brilliant : Campbell, McPhee, Parker and Smith at their best. I hope they'll make it into an album. You missed something.

This album by Parker will only be officially released in October.

luKe said...

I chose for the PETER BRÖTZMANN show in Hasselt on Friday. It was OK although Paal Nilssen-Love and Massimo Pupillo created too much of a rock sound for my ears. Would've loved to see The Roy Campbell Quartet but 4PM was impossible for me.
Didn't think much of the Albert Ayler docu though which I've seen last year at the film festival in Ghent...

Guy said...

also went to the brötzmann show and enjoyed it immensely. was a bit put-off by the dominance of the bass at first, but gradually i really got into it. nilssen-love's drumming was exhausting, but i thought it gave the set a tremendous energy. kondo's spectacular trumpet playing was the most surprising element to me

Lucas said...

Not to be the free jazz police or anything, but I thought I'd make a very minor correction to your review. Hamid is playing balafon (African xylophone) in the first half of "Dust From a Mountain" and frame drum after the rest of the band joins in. Wonderful sounds all around!

languagehat said...

I love this album so much I'm getting a copy for my brother for Xmas. Thanks for your excellent review!