Thursday, December 18, 2014

Books: Van Morrison and William Parker

Lit Up Inside: Selected Lyrics by Van Morrison - Morrison is certainly an inscrutable figure, unique in whatever genre he belongs in, drifting from rhythm and blues to soul, jazz and gospel, sometimes within the same song. This book tracks a roughly linear path through Morrison's career with a few cuts from his first band, Them, and singles like the immortal "Brown Eyed Girl" and the absolutely devastating "T.B. Sheets" are covered before exploring his revelatory early work. The lyrics on his masterpiece Astral Weeks have been studied and debated ever sine the album was released, so it is very interesting to get the official lyrics which are just as enigmatic as you can imagine. He is working from a state of grace at this point and the lyrics are really for each listener to decide their own meaning. His early '70's work: Moondance, Tupelo Honey and His Band and the Street Choir are quite upbeat, covering issues of love and spirituality. The quest for the spirit would begin to be much more prevalent as his career evolved, sometimes as a sense of the worship of nature and sometimes exploring traditional Christian themes. Juxtaposed against this are quite a few songs that explore the negativity of the music business and travails of life in general. It is made quite clear that Morrison is not happy being a public figure, preferring the silence of contemplation rather than the adulation of the crowd. All in all, though, this is a fascinating look into Morrison's music, perhaps as close as we can really get to a true biography. Amazon

The William Parker Sessionography by Rick Lopez - This is a mind boggling effort of research by Lopez, a jazz discographer and researcher to reflect the date, location and band members for every gig and recording session played by the great bassist and composer William Parker. The results are extraordinary, an epic telephone book sized tome arranged in chronological order compiling all of the information Lopez and fellow traveller Ed Hazell have been able to dig up. Flipping through this book you get the sense that Parker was the hardest working man in the jazz business, playing with anyone and everyone beginning in earnest with his appearance on Frank Lowe's 1973 free-jazz monster Black Beings, before delving headlong into the New York City jazz loft scene of the mid-1970's. His involvement in the cooperative Ensemble Muntu and many other groups kept him quite, busy, but he took the time to record his own music even though he couldn't afford to release it (it was ultimately released in the 2010's by the NoBuniness Label.) As the eighties dawned, Parker really came into his own recording with the likes of Cecil Taylor and becoming a member of one of the greatest jazz groups in recent memory, the incendiary David S. Ware Quartet. Parker's own work began to receive the attention that he deserved during this period, and he was recording voraciously in every context from solo bass to big band. Parker's triumph as a musician and humanitarian is beautifully chronicled with many quotes from musicians and magazine articles included as well as reproductions of flyers and album covers. AUM Fidelity

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