William Parker Quartet

Live in Wroclove
ForTune 0002/002

Daniel Carter William Parker Federico Ughi

Navajo Sunrise

Rudi Records RRJ1016

Even after more than 50 years of European support for advanced American Free Jazz, unique stimulation is usually apparent when New World musician perform in certain continental circumstances. Take the two CDs here. Both feature New York bass master/composer William Parker, were recorded 18 months apart in Poland (Live in Wroclove) or Italy (Navajo Sunrise) with a co-op trio or his regular working band, and each have something characteristic to offer.

Nominally the six tracks on Navajo Sunset, recorded in Monte, are directed by the versatile improvisations of Daniel Carter, who musically brainstorms on both alto saxophone and piano. As part of as many – if not more – downtown New York bands as Parker, Carter is another player who since the 1970s, has stayed true to the ideals of liberated music. Slightly younger is Rome-born, Brooklyn-based drummer Federico Ughi who completes the trio. By the same token all of the players are open to different influences, aptly demonstrated on “Gather Up”, where Parker’s compressed tone on shakuhachi is contrasted with the calm geniality issuing from drum-top resonations and clipping piano keys.

Conversely most of the other textures are cast in an approach which owes very much to Ornette Coleman’s acoustic trios, featuring drums and double bass. From the top Carter’s tonguing reed work is related to Coleman’s, but his tone substitutes dry emotionalism for the other saxophonist’s overt blues-base. On “Runnin’ Home” for example, Carter’s vibrations initially alternate between sweet and sour as Ughi’s brush work and Parker’s taunt plucks direct the narrative. It finally reaches a climax as the saxman introduces heightened reed bites prolonged with dog-whistle sharpness.

The extended and concluding “It Could Go” moves the interaction to a plane that rings with volatile outbursts. Here Carter’s multiphonics turn from staccato bites to screeching altissimo as the drummer punctuates every statement with rugged clatters and pumps, while the bassist strums and pops his strings to propel the theme. The saxophonist also proves his reed multiplicity here when a sequence of tongue stops reveals his Bop roots, and more surprisingly, a final extended vibration shows off him playing with a butter-churned tone as sweet as Pete Brown’s pre-World War Two work.

Role changing isn’t confined to that tune either. Earlier, on the indicatively titled “Legacy”, Parker’s power thumping and Ughi’s rolls and smacks maintain the stirring beat to such an extent that you half expect the trio to start playing “Don’t Stop the Carnival”. Carter’s dual personas also contribute low-frequency piano clusters and fluttering glossolalia from his horn at suitable intervals.

A more formal affair, the Parker concert from Wroclove presents his long-running quartet in a program of three suites honoring now deceased artists. “Kalaparusha dancing on the Edge of the Horizon” is a more than 47½ minute, six part meditation on the talents of long-time AACM reed man Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre; “One for Horace” salutes pioneering Free Jazz pianist/bandleader Horace Tapscott of Los Angeles; while “Theme for Rondo Hatton”, is a composition for one of Parker’s favorite film actors, Rondo Hatton (1894-1946), whose medical condition gave him unusual features that led him to be cast as a heavy or horror movie monster. In truth the last tune is a bluesy romp blues that’s literally calls for finger snapping and hand clapping, and demonstrates the quartet’s jagged yet communicative power.

Most poignant, “One for Horace” is a swinging threnody for Tapscott, with the sentiment best expressed by the mellow preciseness in Lewis Barnes’ trumpet solos. The trumpeter injects languid carelessness into the hills-and-valleys of his improvisations, linking stoicism and sorrow, but defiant enough to suggest hope. Parker’ string-bouncing quivers and triple-stroking serve not only as a demonstration of skill but are the glue that anchors the narrative beneath Barnes’ intricate brass flow.

Everyone gets ample space for free expression on the first selection, composed when McIntyre was terminally ill but before he died, and resulting from a fanciful dream Parker had about the saxophonist. Securely directed by Parker and colored by the versatile Drake in quieter or louder accompaniment, the interface depends on burnished tonic tones from the trumpet creating obbligatos to, or whinnying in opposition to, the mercurial bites and bluster of alto saxophonist Rob Brown. Often with the same sort of Coleman-affiliations as Caster exhibits on the other CD, Brown is consistent here, coloring his agile tone extensions with bites as well as fluttery slurps. Meantime Drake cymbal plinks and Parker’s strokes goose the narrative intensity until the thickened undertow gives way to a slower sequence more than half-way through. From that point on the bassist’s buzzing spiccato and the drummer’s moderated clanks are showcased in brief solos, then stay out of the way as the horns reintroduce the theme, deconstruct it with wah-wahs and slurred textures, then put it back together again so their vamps and the rhythm section’s shuffling reach a proper ending.

It may be overly romantic or even condescending to suggest that the enthusiastic audiences were responsible for the quality playing exhibited on these sessions. The crowd certainly didn’t hinder the creativity though. And the musicians of this high calibre easily merit the acclaim.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Navajo: 1. Turning Waters 2. Navajo Sunrise 3. Gather Up 4. Legacy 5. Runnin’ Home 6. It Could Go

Personnel: Navajo: Daniel Carter (alto saxophone and piano); William Parker (bass and shakuhachi) and Federico Ughi (drums)

Track Listing: Live: 1. Kalaparusha dancing on the Edge of the Horizon; 2. One for Horace; 3. Theme for Rondo Hatton

Personnel: Live: Lewis Barnes (trumpet); Rob Brown (alto saxophone); William Parker (bass) and Hamid Drake (percussion)