The Victoriaville Tape
For Scrapbook, bassist William Parker assembled an intimate trio that includes his frequent battery mate, drummer Hamid Drake, and violinist Billy Bang. This CD can easily sit alongside Parker's recent and equally brilliant quartet recording, O'Neal's Porch.
Perhaps the key element to this CD is Bang's violin; it gives the music a deep, timeless, folk sound that goes from singing and ebullient to almost unbearably tense and naked. In Bang's hands, Parker's melodies come unvarnished and graceful at first. Soon enough, the violinist finds violent essays in them with a sound that somehow reaches back to the raw sound of pre-war Appalachian folk without abandoning the sounds of urban jazz. Around him, Parker and Drake turn out a wiry, vascular groove-can they do this in their sleep?-that gives the music its delicate power. Both the title track and "Sunday Morning Church" open with Parker and Drake locked up and jamming in a way that is so deeply satisfying that they could easily court your ears for hours.
"Dust on a White Shirt," Parker's stab at hoedown music, strikes a self-conscious note, but that is a small quibble for such a great album.
Parker joins fellow bassist Peter Kowald for The Victoriaville Tape, a live recording of the duo at the Victoriaville Festival. It's another unintentional farewell for Kowald, who died less than a year after this recording was made.
There is a strain of melancholy running through this performance, though that might be a retroactive and clouded observation. But there is no doubt that Kowald and Parker generate an expansive sound together. For the 16-minute opener and the 41-minute main piece, the two men create a slowly shifting field of pure sound, sometimes out of which emerge small moments of furious walking bass or fragments of melody.