William Parker - Alphaville Suite (Rogue Art, 2007)
Like John Zorn, bassist and composer William Parker has been very interested in the films of Jean-Luc Goddard, particularly his 1965 dystopian science fiction classic Alphaville. Parker wrote this suite of music inspired by the images and themes of the film. His regular quartet of Lewis Barnes on trumpet, Rob Brown on alto saxophone and Hamid Drake on drums is joined by a string quartet and vocalist Leena Conquest. The strings are very well integrated into this music. Often in jazz and popular music, strings are added separately as a sweetener, but that not the case here where the stringed instruments are improvising with the traditional jazz instruments along with providing background. The string arrangements and improvisation remind me of Greg Osby's album Symbols of Light: A Solution. The leadoff track "Alphaville Main Theme" demonstrates all of this with the strings bobbing and weaving amongst the improving jazz quartet. Singer Leena Conquest, who has always reminded me of Sun Ra's singer and dancer June Tyson adds a strong vocal to two versions of "Natasha's Theme." Two very lengthy tracks dominate the remainder of the album, the aggressive "Doctor Badguy" with Barnes and Brown taking a leading roll, and the freewheeling "Civilizations of Light" which give several of the musicians a chance to solo at length. This album is another very fine example of William Parker's art, and is highly recommended to anyone interested in progressive jazz.
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