William Parker – Corn Meal Dance (AUM Fidelity, 2007)
Of the many bands bassist William Parker leads, his Raining on the Moon group featuring vocalist Leena Conquest may be his most accessible. She has a pleasant and strong voice much like June Tyson, the vocalist of the Sun Ra Arkestra. Parker's lyrics are often based in real life issues and have a lot more relevance than the usual love and loss pablum found in most jazz lyrics. Rounding out the group are Rob Brown on alto saxophone, Lewis Barnes on trumpet and Hamid Drake on drums. This core groups has been together in many combinations over the years and know each other very well. Shaking things up a little bit is the addition of Eri Yamamoto on piano. “Doctor Yesterday” opens the disc with an expansive feeling allowing both the band and the singer to stretch out and interpret both the music and the lyrics. “Tutsi Orphans” is a serious and sad song about the Rawandan genocide where Conquest sings with deep regret and compassion. “Land Song” also speaks volumes about race and inequality, referencing slavery and the 3/5th's compromise of American History. I assume that the wonderful disc ending “Gilmore's Hat” is a reference to the tenor saxophone great John Gilmore. Rob Brown gets a lot of space hear to make a fine statement on alto, bobbing and weaving between the vocal verses. Don't assume that because of the heavy subject matter covered here that this album is preachy or cloying, nothing could be further from the truth. Parker's poetic lyrics are space and thoughtful and cause you to pause and deeply consider their meaning. This is a very good album from William Parker, whose recent music has been an embarrassment of riches. Accessible, thoughtful and profound, this album deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.
Corn Meal Dance is available at Amazon.com.
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