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 third entry in a five-part series (Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here, Part 3 is here) examining this music in detail, two albums per day.
The seventh disc in the box, Afternoon Poem, contains 15 pieces for voice, recorded in 2019, and one duet for voice and piano, recorded in 1993. Lisa Sokolov, the singer, has worked with Parker since moving to New York in the 1970s. Before that, she studied with trumpeter Bill Dixon, saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, and percussionist Milford Graves at Bennington College in Vermont. She teaches vocal technique and has recorded in a variety of contexts, as a leader and with others’ ensembles. She is an absolute master of her instrument, and displays that here through a variety of approaches. She whispers, recites the lyrics like poetry, stammers and sputters and scats, hums, and harmonizes with herself via overdubbing. At certain points, her voice blends with itself so closely and precisely it’s almost like hocketing. On “Essence Calling Out,” there are three Sokolovs at work simultaneously. One is humming a bass line, while the other two are singing, one in a low gospel style and the other in a breathier, more art-song style. You might not think you’d want to hear 45 minutes of a cappella vocals, some of which are delivered in a highly theatrical, jazz-poetry voice. The nakedness of that can be a little much. But the first time an overdubbed voice appears, all misgivings vanish, and it becomes mesmerizing. “Green and Brown,” in which she utters solfége syllables while reciting the lyrics like a voice coming from the depths of the listener’s mind, is another highlight; it’s amazing how two voices can swallow you completely.
The eighth disc, Lights in the Rain (the Italian Directors Suite), is exactly what its title indicates: ten tracks, seven of them dedicated by name to Michelangelo Antonioni, Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Sergio Leone, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Roberto Rossellini and Luchino Visconti. The ensemble includes many of the players heard on Mexico — Ariel Bart on harmonica, Jim Ferraiuolo on oboe, Illay Sabag on piano, Ohad Kapuya on bass, and Rachel Housle on drums — with the addition of Peter Dennis on second bass and Andrea Wolper on vocals. Parker plays cornet.
The album is heavily front-loaded, with its first two tracks each running nearly 11 minutes. But the music swings hard; on “Fellini,” the two bassists work together to create a head-nodding pulse as Wolper discourses about dreams and the kind of surreal characters and images that filled the late director’s oeuvre. “Pasolini,” on the other hand, is a sloganeering slab of free jazz, dominated by blues-unto-clang piano reminiscent of Dave Burrell and martial drums, with keening oboe and mournful harmonica taking the place of what might have been the horns of Albert and Don Ayler fifty years ago; Wolper repeats that we should “lock up the rich and throw away the key.” Unsurprisingly (for anyone who’s seen Once Upon a Time in the West), Bart’s harmonica dominates “Leone,” but the romantic melodies she’s playing — before going well off track into unfettered blowing — are more reminiscent of Ennio Morricone‘s romantic theme for Once Upon a Time in America. Ferraiuolo’s oboe solo is more restrained, almost chamber music-esque.
In the final installment of this series, we’ll look at an album recorded in Amsterdam with Dutch musicians, and an album written for string quartet.
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