For a guy who’s rightly regarded as basically a load-bearing column holding up much of the New York avant-jazz scene, bassist William Parker records some remarkably mainstream-friendly albums. His work with his own quartet in particular—2000’s O’Neal’s Porch, 2002’s Raining on the Moon (with vocalist Leena Conquest added to the core lineup of trumpeter Lewis Barnes, alto saxophonist Rob Brown, Parker, and drummer Hamid Drake), 2005’s live Sound Unity, 2007’s Corn Meal Dance (with Conquest back, and joined by pianist Eri Yamamoto) and 2008’s Petit Oiseau—has bridged in and out, hard bop and raucous freedom, swinging and stargazing at once. This album, too, is almost shockingly “normal,” even classicist in its approach.

The band includes tenor saxophonist Darryl Foster, multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore on organ, Parker on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. And while they’re not operating in full Jimmy Smith mode, there’s a thick layer of the blues coating everything on this album. And on tracks like “Let’s Go Down to the River” and “Buddha’s Joy,” they do head deep into bluesy hard bop territory, with Foster and Cooper-Moore conjuring Big John Patton‘s late ’60s Blue Note albums crossed with early-Impulse!-era Coltrane. Parker himself composed all this material, but he remains well to the back, letting the sax, organ and Cleaver’s drums carry most if not all of the momentum. “The Struggle” is a more abstract piece, sounding very much akin to Larry Young‘s work on records like Of Love and Peace and Mother Ship. At one point, Foster cuts loose with a piercing, extended squeal as Cooper-Moore churns up the ground behind him and Cleaver hammers the kit into submission.

This is a limited-edition disc, released on Parker’s own Centering Music label; the first run of 1000 copies is already sold out, but the second edition (also 1000 copies) can be pre-ordered at the AUM Fidelity website. Don’t let this disc pass you by. It’s emotional, hard-grooving, occasionally abstract but often raw and bluesy music that shakes hands with the past before striding confidently into the future.

Phil Freeman

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