Sunday, October 3, 2010
William Parker - I Plan To Stay A Believer/The Inside Songs Of Curtis Mayfield (AUM Fidelity, 2010) **½
Now Parker is back on the same track, and I think a certain warning is in place for the fans. The first warning is that this is not all jazz, or not jazz at all. The second is that this is a compilation taken from various concerts at which the Curtis Mayfield songs were played, with big differences of approach and quality.
The record starts very strong though, with Leena Conquest on vocals, and the "established" William Parker band : William Parker on bass,Hamid Drake on drums, Lafayette Gilchrist on piano, Lewis Barnes on trumpet
Darryl Foster on tenor & soprano sax, Sabir Mateen on alto & tenor sax. In short, the band we love and enjoy. The playing and the singing are phenomenal, full of soul, funk even, energetic drive and great soloing. But it lasts only for two tracks.
Then you have Amiri Baraka on voice, on six tracks, talking rather than singing, and on those pieces the recording quality is lower, with the musicians being reduced to a supporting role.
Then the whole thing completely collapses into cheap gospel when the children's choirs from either France or the New Life Tabernacle Generation Of Praise in New York take the lead vocals, with the band even more pushed into the background.
Dave Burrell plays piano on several tracks, and Guillermo E. Brown drums.
I can understand Parker's admiration for Curtis Mayfield, about his music and what he represented historically and socially. But I would have expected a more personal and creative angle: possibly Mayfield's material isn't strong enough to start with. It is too bland and could have been played by a zillion other village bands.
Watch an excerpt from the Vision Festival two years ago.