William Parker Quartet -Petit Oiseau (AUM Fidelity, 2008)
Working bands with stable personnel are difficult to maintain in today's jazz world, but bassist William Parker's Quartet with drummer Hamid Drake, alto saxophonist Rob Brown and trumpeter Lewis Barnes has been a stable and relentlessly creative unit for several years now. This album begins with the lengthy suite "Groove Sweet" during which Drake and Parker consistently shift and morph the rhythm, while Brown and Byrnes improvise on top of it. "Talap's Theme" finds Brown and Barnes riffing together in strong collective improvisation. Parker and Drake take part in a nimble bass and drum duet. "Petit Oiseau" has trumpet over bass and drums, Barnes sounds really hot, and then Brown rises to the challenge with a tart, citrus flavored solo. Parker underpins it all with strong elastic bass. Bass and drums open "The Golden Bell" with a slight Middle Eastern feel. There is a strong and thoughtful alto sax solo. Rob Brown also takes center stage on "Four for Tommy", the highpoint of the album, with a strong, fast solo that is just stunning in its power and grace. "Malachai's Mode" is a smooth and swinging hard-bop performance that wouldn't sound out of place on a mid 60's Blue Note record. "Dust From a Mountain" is the most exotic song on the album, where Parker trades in his bass for a cedar flute, and Drake plays intimate percussion. "Shorter For Alan" wraps up the album with an abstract improvisation. This is an excellent album, with superb soloing and wonderful collective playing as a unit. The William Parker Quartet is one of the finest working bands in modern jazz and this album is another example of that fact.
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