William Parker is not only one of the most well-recorded modern bassists, he is also a prolific composer of note, appearing on over 50 albums as a leader in the last 30 years. While known for free jazz and his collaborations with Matthew Shipp, Joe Morris, Hamid Drake, and many others, his interests span a staggering breadth of styles.
Migration of Silence Into and Out of The Tone World is a new 10CD set that features Parker’s playing and/or writing across 91 tracks. Each album features a different soloist or group, and focuses on performances by women – particularly, women vocalists. And in line with his aforementioned stylistic scope, the compositions drawn from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, as well as the African-American jazz tradition.
Rather than address each of every one of these recordings, four are briefly covered below. But do not hesitate to obtain the entire boxed set, as it represents a vision of hope and diversity for a world that needs healing.
Child of Sound is for solo pianist Eri Yamamoto, and is an introspective and slow-paced set of blues and jazz inflected pieces. Wistful and melancholy in tone, Yamamoto gracefully navigates 14 tracks varying in length from under one minute to almost six. While one of the more conventional sets of this suite, several offerings (e.g., Sky Falling) hint at Parker’s angularity.
In contrast, Cheops is much more of an outside recording. At its center is vocalist Kyoko Kitamura, who recites lyrics as well as engages in wordless singing. Joining her are Matt Moran on vibes, Ben Stapp on tuba, Kayla Milmine-Abbott on sax, Rachel Housle on drums, and Parker on bass and flute. These tracks are longer and more textural than those on Child of Sound, and largely improvised. Even Kitamura’s phrasings appear to be based on a stream of consciousness. This loose structure is apparent on the 22-minute If We Play Soft Enough, with the instrumentalists deftly exploring a shifting soundscape over which Kitamura expresses non-singing vocalizations (whispers, wails, throat sounds).
The Fastest Train has Coen Aalberts and Klaas Hekman joining Parker on a spiritual journey. All three play either some form of flute and/or non-kit percussion. The album’s subtle approach contrasts with its title, with much of its content being quietly improvised. Exceptions exist though, such as Family Voice, in which lines from a pair of flutes (one reedy and the other not) combine with hand-held drums. …Fastest Train exhibits a more steady rhythm combined with dueling flutes, one strained and the other not. But the overall direction here is of an organic and aboriginal music.
Manzanar is the Universal Tonality String Quartet (Melanie Dyer on viola, Jason Kao Hwang on violin, Gwen Laster on violin, and Dara Bloom on cello) along with Parker on flutes. Like many modern string quartets, this one stretches the boundaries of their instruments with extended techniques (scraping, plucking, discordant sawing) which dovetails nicely with Parker’s unconventional writing. Further, the group also deviates from a strictly classical approach and instead follows Parker’s writing to a place that is more raw, almost a melancholy take on folk music.