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William Parker and In Order to Survive: The Peach Orchard

Virtually unnoticed by the jazz establishment and the mainstream jazz press, bassist-composer William Parker has become one of the true leaders in American music. He has done so by maintaining a single focus on uncompromising creativity, despite passing trends and economic hardships. In the 21 years since the making of Through The Acceptance of the Mystery Peace (first issued on his own Centering Records), Parker has not only led such innovate ensembles as The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra and In Order to Survive, but he has been a highly effective activist, helping to create, among other seminal events, the highly acclaimed Vision Festival. These three discs reveal the breadth of Parker’s art and the depth of his commitment.

While Parker is the anchor of several decade-defining small groups, In Order to Survive is the one that best integrates Parker’s strengths as player, composer, and leader. On the two-disc The Peach Orchard, the quartet-rounded out by alto saxophonist Rob Brown, pianist Cooper-Moore, and drummer Susie Ibarra-interprets Parker’s often daunting structures with a fiery clarity. “Moholo” exemplifies how Parker constructs vivid contrasts between notated materials and open improvisations, as, over the course of 18 minutes, a hushed hymn-like theme punctuates extended improvisations-a Parker-Ibarra meta-groove, and a plaintive Brown solo that segues into a simmering Parker-Cooper-Moore exchange. Yet, the quartet can also stretch out on an invigorating theme, such as the Moebius strip-like boppish line of “Three Clay Pots.” Simply put, ripeness is all in The Peach Orchard.

From the open bow strokes of Lifting the Sanctions, Parker’s solo program leaves the strong first impression that he has mastered a vast inventory of extended arco techniques. Throughout the album, Parker builds bristling statements from an unusual attack or bow motion; “As a Flower” blooms with rich colors from a bud of harmonics produced by light bowing. His pizzicato technique pushes the envelope as well, as on “Rainbow Escaping.” Parker uses plump single note lines and below-the-bridge plucking to establish the rhythmic flow of the piece.

Consistently, Parker clears the threshold of metamorphosing methods into compelling music.

Through The Acceptance Of The Mystery Peace provides a necessary look back at how underground Parker was in the early ’70s. Many present-day loft music luminaries are on board; saxophonists Daniel Carter and Jemeel Moonndoc are on the front lines of the free-ranging septet and octet pieces, while violinists like Billy Bang and Jason Hwang contribute to the timbral investigations of the smaller string-dominated configurations. Still, at the time, these musicians were known to only a small, dedicated NYC audience, making this disc a useful document for tracing Parker’s roots. The music has retained its youthful ardor.

Originally Published