Tuesday, August 24, 2010

William Parker Organ Quartet - Uncle Joe's Spirit House (Centering/AUM Fidelity, 2010)

Bassist William Parker has led many remarkable ensembles throughout his career, but this is a new one, a deceptively mellow sounding organ based group featuring Darryl Foster on tenor saxophone, Cooper-Moore on organ and Gerald Cleaver on drums. The music is deep and thick and is reminiscent of the progressive organ jazz made by Larry Young for Blue Note in the mid to late 1960's. Dedicated to Parker's aunt and uncle, the album opens with the title song "Uncle Joe's Spirit House" featuring swirling organ and saxophone probing over a broad bass and drum groove. Foster keeps his playing subtle and discreet, even as he swings the music to a faster pace for the conclusion. "Jacques' Groove" would sound great as a 45 RPM single if there were such a thing anymore, as the fast and groove heavy performance zips by in under three minutes. Subtle medium tempo organ and saxophone lead "Ennio's Tag" into a haunting organ theme. The groove gets a little choppier and Foster takes command, improvising over the swirling backdrop. "Document for LJ" is an excellent lengthy performance beginning with wheezy organ and saxophone over an understated drum rhythm. Cooper-Moore lays down swaths of organ, that Parker backs beautifully with think loping bass. Cleaver and Parker both get solo spots on this song before the full band returns top the sly and patient melody. A gospel felling pervades "Let's Go Down to the River" digging deep into a soulful groove with a patient full band improvisation. The spiritual nature of the music continues on "Buddha's Joy" where Cooper-Moore's organ becomes particularly hypnotic and fascinating, developing a droning feel reminiscent of the distinctive electric organ work of Alice Coltrane. "The Struggle" is a showcase for Foster, letting loose with some very urgent saxophone playing, punctuated with high pitched squeals. "Oasis" brings the album to a gentle conclusion, with the music music moving into a slowly developing deeply melodic healing balm. This was clearly a very personally resonant project for William Parker and it works quite well, developing into one his most accessible albums. It was very interesting to hear Parker and Cooper-Moore, normally associated with the avant-garde, playing groove based soul-jazz. But it works very well, the musicians are all committed to the music and there are no egos at play here. The music flows like a deep and powerful river, filled with eddys and currents of melody and rhythm. Uncle Joe's Spirit House - Centering/AUM Fidelity, 2010

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