Ken Aldcroft-William Parker

Live at the Tranzac Vol. 1
Trio Records TRP DS04-023

By Ken Waxman

Toronto’s Tranzac isn’t Carnegie Hall. The midtown space, initially a social club for Australians and New Zealanders – hence the name – is now one of the city’s busiest outposts for music, improvised and other. Like NYC’s ABC No Rio or 5C Cultural Center though, adventurous sounds compensate for the grungy environment, with guitarist Ken Aldcroft one of the most active organizers here and at other city spots. Besides collaborating with many locals, Aldcroft has built up ongoing relationships with out-of-towners like Wilbert de Joode and Joe McPhee. Live at the Tranzac Vol. 1 preserves a particularly inspired set by the guitarist and bassist William Parker. Unlike some well-known players who arrive in a city as if they’re Old West gunslingers bringing their sharpshooting skill to help beleaguered townsfolk, Parker is more like a visiting firefighter called in to a natural disaster. He’s there to cooperative with others to get the job done the best way possible.

In this case the job is providing a steadfast rhythmic pulse throughout, aggressively strumming and hammering on the double bass strings to provide melodic continuum. At the same time he reacts immediately to any changes in the guitar patterns. With sharp tangy down strokes Aldcroft pushes the theme forward at a moderated pace, only turning to staccato chording at mid-point, with his sudden ferocity matched by Parker pulling on the double bass strings as if launching arrows from a bow. After the guitarist moderates his narrative to string jabs and shivers, the bassist’s shrill shakuhachi hoots introduce a Third World element to what was formerly a First World abstract improvisation. Although the transformative mood is amplified when Parker hums while strumming his donso ngoni or Malian hunter’s harp, false exoticism never replaces accomplished unity. Despite their independent origins the textures from both six-string instruments together shape this interlocking mosaic of beauty and daring.

Another confirmation that exceptional music can be produced at a shabby, little-known spot as regularly as at Carnegie Hall, the strength of the sounds in this CD also suggest Live at the Tranzac Vol. 2 is a session to be anticipated.

Tracks: Set 1 - 47:38

Personnel: Ken Aldcroft: guitar; William Parker: bass, shakuhachi, donso ngoni

—For The New York City Jazz Record July 2016