Bassist William Parker has a fairly epic box out this week. Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World is a 10CD set, with each disc featuring a different ensemble, many of which do not feature his playing. This set (which you can buy from AUM Fidelity) is all about showcasing William Parker the composer. This is the first entry in a five-part series examining this music in detail, two albums per day.
The first disc, Blue Limelight, features vocalist Raina Sokolov-Gonzalez and a kind of chamber ensemble featuring pianist Mara Rosenbloom; violinists Tina Burova, Scot Moore, and Reina Murooka; Jim Ferraiulo on oboe; and Peter Dennis on bass. Jim Clouse (who engineered most of the box at his Park West Studio in Brooklyn) plays drums on one track, Kevin Murray drums on two others, and Jason Kao Hwang is the violin soloist on one track.
Some but not all of the lyrics are included in a booklet in the box. At times, like when Sokolov-Gonzalez is singing in Spanish on “I’d Rather Be,” a text to refer to would have been helpful. But on other tracks, like “A Great Day to Be Dead,” her delivery is more poetic, as Parker narrates a dream. The music is almost gospel-ish, performed by a piano trio, with strings surging, Philly soul style, here and there and wistful melodies from the oboe. The title track, “Blue Limelight,” is Parker’s response to the death of his former boss, Cecil Taylor. It’s mournful, but suffused with a deep love, and in the booklet, he discusses some of the particular qualities and interests Taylor had which are honored in the lyrics. The oboe gives it a feeling close to chamber music.
The second disc, Child of Sound, is a set of 14 pieces performed on piano by Eri Yamamoto. Parker and Yamamoto have a long history of collaboration. She performed on his 2005 trio album Luc’s Lantern, and has subsequently appeared on two albums by his quintet/sextet Raining on the Moon (2007’s Corn Meal Dance and 2015’s Great Spirit) as well as on performances gathered in the 2013 box set Wood Flute Songs and on several collections of his compositional and song-based work: 2015’s For Those Who Are, Still, and 2018’s Voices Fall From the Sky and Flower in a Stained-Glass Window & The Blinking of the Ear. The bassist was one of her partners on her 2008 album Duologue, which also featured pairings with saxophonist Daniel Carter and drummers Federico Ughi and Hamid Drake.
Yamamoto is a powerful player with a strong left hand and a rhythmic feel all her own. The disc opens with “Malachi’s Mode,” a piece Parker recorded with his quartet on their 2008 studio album Petit Oiseau; there, it had a bouncing, Ornette Coleman-ish quality as the two horns (Lewis “Flip” Barnes on trumpet, Rob Brown on alto sax) danced over the Parker-Drake rhythm section. Yamamoto gives it a completely different sort of rhythmic force, almost approaching stride piano at times and rumbling around in the keyboard’s low end as she extrapolates the melody in ways that nod to Keith Jarrett as well.
“The Golden Light (Hymn)” lives up to its title; it has a decidedly liturgical, processional feel. It would be easy to imagine a couple choosing it as wedding music. And Yamamoto’s rock-steady left hand anchors it to the earth, even as she lifts it up and brings it into the realm of jazz with forceful right-hand figures that might well cause the congregation to look up from their hymnbooks and wonder what exactly is going on. Toward the end of the album, there’s a four-part suite: “Rez Sunset,” “Trail of Tears I,” “Trail of Tears II” and “Rez Sunrise.” The first two segments are quite short, and have an extremely minimal, hushed quality, somewhere between Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt, while the latter two are in the five- to six-minute range and have a strong sense of swing, while remaining stately and sorrowful.
In the second installment of this series, we’ll discuss an album for (mostly) solo voice, and an album featuring vocals and a chamber jazz-ish quartet (soprano sax, tuba, vibes and drums).
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