Every so often you put on an album and from the opening minute you know that you are experiencing something special. At 2019’s Vision Festival, saxophonist Kidd Jordan, pianist Joel Futterman, bassist William Parker, and drummer Hamid Drake recorded a tribute to the recently passed drummer and AACM founding member Alvin Fielder. This 45-minute, single-track offering memorializes that evening’s music.
Ostensibly free jazz, A Tribute to Alvin Fielder is so much more. Each member of the quartet went the extra mile to make the celebration of Fielder’s life stand out, even at that storied festival. Indeed, William Parker records so many albums with an understated style that one can forget that he is absolutely devastating when he has the mind to be that way. His playing is expansive, nimbly traversing the fretboard in an unconventional – but not unpleasant – fashion. Long-time collaborator Drake is comfortable playing both inside and outside, as well as switching between the two at a moment’s notice. His patterns are rarely repetitive even when in a groove. Futterman hits the keys percussively, with chords both powerful and unusual, as well as tight runs and note clusters. Jordan is in charge of most of the leads, some of which wail while others have subtle blues stylings. At 84, he plays with the gusto of someone half his age.
The relentless energy of this foursome is contagious. They rarely let up, giving the listener only a few chances to breathe – but even then Parker is all over the map. But more importantly, this is not a mournful tribute. Jordan, Futterman, Parker, and Drake honor the life of Fielder with joy, creativity, and grace; they look ahead as much as they glance behind. A powerful release.