Friday, October 25, 2013

The William Parker Quartet

Gelvin Noel Gallery
Krannert Art Museum
Champaign, Illinois
October 24, 2013

Lewis Barnes, trumpet
Rob Brown, alto saxophone
William Parker, bass, wooden flutes
Hamid Drake, drums

The William Parker Quartet is one of the great ensembles in jazz. Its instrumentation recalls Ornette Coleman’s first great quartet (with Don Cherry, Charlie Haden, and Ed Blackwell). The members of the Parker quartet have been playing together for thirteen years, with an intimate understanding that Parker likens to a marriage.

Last night’s performance began with an episode for flutes and drums (blessing the space, Parker later explained), followed by “Deep Flower” (dedicated to the pianist Andrew Hill), “Ridley Me Do” (dedicated to the trumpeter Michael Ridley), and “O’Neal’s Porch,” with genial themes (at times reminiscent of Coleman and Thelonious Monk) giving way to free improvisation. Those who insist that music must swing to be jazz never seem to understand that swing does not require a preëstablished structure of measures and chord changes. These musicians swing mightily, in a way that might be called abstract expressionist. And: in a way that draws upon varied elements of jazz history: slapped bass, the unison front-line statements of bop, the shifting tempi and interplay between horns of Charles Mingus’s groups. The quartet’s music is truly “in the tradition,” not recreating the past but drawing on it to make something new.

My favorite moments: Barnes and Brown walking off to play from opposite sides of the gallery; Parker playing his bass from top to bottom, getting two-note chords by plucking above and below the bridge; a thunderous drum passage, after which Drake apologized for his volume, to general laughter and applause; a funny junket into three-quarter time.

Whenever I hear great live music, I cannot sleep well. I barely slept last night.

Great thanks to Jason Finkelman for continuing to bring great music to east-central Illinois.

[In the Tradition is the title of a 1978 album by alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe. I hope I have the title of the second piece right. A correction, from any quarter, is welcome.]

comments: 3

Jason Finkelman said...

Thank you for the review Michael. The William Parker quartet concert was a very special night for the Sudden Sound concert series. I like to relate this group to Mingus's super quartet in 1960 with Dolphy, Ted Curson, and Dannie Richmond. Different voices and sound, but the communication is all there.

And last night's performance by Adam Rudolph and Ralph Jones was also filled with intuitive music making that also took advantage of spatial qualities of Krannert Art Museum.

Next semester Chicago Underground Duo and Tatsuya Nakatani's Gong Orchestra is in the works!

I'll look forward to seeing you at future shows.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes. I thought of “Folk Forms No. 1.”

I missed last night to listen to two WWII veterans give a talk. But I’ll be back.

Jason Finkelman said...

I appreciate the link/tags to my name (the one on the Rova review needs to be changed). By next semester I hope to have an updated bio online for my position as director of Global Arts Performance Initiatives, which now houses Sudden Sound concerts. In the meanwhile, I'd love to have folks check out and like our facebook which provides the latest info on my programs.