Monday, November 23, 2015

William Parker / Raining on the Moon - Great Spirit (AUM Fidelity, 2015)

Of all of bassist and composer William Parker’s many ensembles, Raining on the Moon may be his most melodic and accessible. He is joined by longtime collaborators Hamid Drake on drums, Rob Brown on alto saxophone, Lewis Barnes on trumpet, Eri Yamamoto on piano and Leena Conquest singing. If any comparison can be drawn it would be with the music that Sun Ra played with June Tyson’s powerful vocals, and this band is a spiritual descendent of that group. Parker writes thought provoking lyrics and music that leaves ample room for the instrumentalists to make their statements, like Rob Brown’s ripe solo on the opening track “Bowl Of Stone Around The Sun” in which space is also left open for Conquest’s soulful singing of Parker’s affecting and inspiring lyrics. “Feet Music” is simply staggering, with the words recounting the life of a slave, working in the crops and then cooking and cleaning only to be raped by the bossman. The music is urgent and powerful with the piano, bass and drums unit driving forward with passionate dignity, as the lyrics recount the pain of infanticide to keep the character’s child from becoming yet another slave. Conquest’s vocals are defiant and filled with the great power and dignity. From the haunting despair of that song, the music moves into the spiritual realm with Conquest beckoning hope, joy and the possibilities of love on “Great Spirit.” The music evolves into some excellent trumpet and saxophone interplay as Brown and Barnes swirl ever higher, with great support from below. “Prayer-Improv” fades into a free and unfettered improvisation by the instrumentalists, before Conquest enters intoning haunting tones that float above the music. The bands really flies free here and it is exhilarating to hear, even as it slowly fades out. “Song (for Whitney)” is a soulful ballad for voice and piano and “Potpourri” ends the album on a very high note with a snippet of joyous jamming. This may be a bold statement, but I think that this may stand as one of the finest albums in William Parker’s discography. The music flows freely and effortlessly and Parker’s lyrics are some of the best he has ever writing sing with grace and passion by Leena Conquest. Great Spirit -

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