Monday, March 28, 2005

William Parker – Luc’s Lantern (Thirsty Ear, 2005)

For the last couple of years I’ve wondered why mainstream jazz radio stations don’t play the music of William Parker. I guess it goes to show how hard it is to shake off a label in the jazz world, even when it no longer applies. In Parker’s case, his association with Cecil Tayor, David S. Ware and others has led to him being branded with the scarlet A for “avant-garde” even though his last several albums have been quite melodic and accessible. His new album is a case in point, being a standard piano trio playing very melodic (read: non-threatening) music. He’s joined by the young pianist Eri Yamamato and Michael Thompson on drums.

Initially when I heard this disc compared to music by the Bill Evans trio, I was a little nonplussed, but when I finally heard the music, I understood the comparison. Beginning with the opening composition “Adena” and occurring as a theme throughout the disc, there is a lot of the fragile, crystalline sense of space that was found in the Evans trio. But it’s not all melancholy brooding, Parker pays tribute to great pianists with the tracks “Jaki” for Jaki Byard and “Bud in Alphaville” for Bud Powell. Both of which allow Ms. Yamamato to show her classically trained chops. Also, if you’re a fan of Parker’s bass playing as well as his composing, you’re in for a treat as the space available in the trio setting allows him to stretch out at length as well.

So overall, it’s an interesting departure for William Parker, and by far the most “mainstream” album he has ever made. It will be interesting to see how the avant garde community reacts to this low key album. Be that as it may, if you’ve been interested in Parker but scared off by his “avant-garde” reputation, this is the perfect introduction.

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