Episode 16 of the Burning Ambulance podcast features an interview with bassist William Parker, whose latest album, the 3CD set Voices Fall from the Sky, is out June 15, and his wife Patricia Nicholson, who runs Arts For Art, the organization that has put on the Vision Festival every year since 1996 and has recently expanded to running additional concert series during the fall and winter.
William Parker has been a crucial figure on the international avant-garde jazz scene since the 1970s. His first recorded appearance was in 1973, backing saxophonist Frank Lowe on the album Black Beings, and he’s made literally hundreds of records since then. He was the bassist in the David S. Ware Quartet for something like 20 years, and continued working with Ware until the saxophonist’s death in 2012. He played with Cecil Taylor in the 1980s and 1990s, he was the bassist in Matthew Shipp’s trio for decades, and has played with almost everyone else you’ve ever heard of in this genre of music. As a leader, he’s done everything from solo bass albums to massive orchestral projects. Voices Fall from the Sky showcases his work with vocalists.
Patricia Nicholson is also a hugely important figure to the New York avant-garde jazz scene, because she runs the annual Vision Festival, a massive, weeklong event that gathers amazing musicians from all across the spectrum, from players who’ve been around since the 1960s to people who’ve just made their debut in the last few years and are keeping the spirit of free music alive. She’s also a dancer and choreographer who performs at the festival every year, and she’s just made her debut as a spoken word performer on the album Hope Cries for Justice, a duo performance with Parker.
In this interview, I’m talking to William about what he’s doing musically, and I’m talking to Patricia about her thoughts on dance, and what it takes to run the Vision Festival and all the other programs that the nonprofit Arts For Art, which she leads, put on every year. They’re an extremely ambitious organization working in a city and a cultural environment that offers equal parts apathy and hostility, but what they do is pretty amazing, so I hope you’ll find this conversation as interesting and inspiring as I did.