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William Parker: Song Cycle

William Parker, arguably the hardest working man in jazz, is drawing from a bottomless well of inspiration. The bassist, composer and bandleader juggles so many varied projects, ranging from circuslike big bands to electronica-enhanced free-improv collectives, that you’d think that he would hit a creative wall eventually. But these two CDs, both prominently featuring vocals, prove the contrary.

The intimate duets on Song Cycle, which pairs William Parker with vocalist Ellen Christi and singer Lisa Sokolov with pianist Yuko Fujiyama, were actually recorded in 1991 and 1993, and were set to be released in the mid-’90s. Now, almost a decade later, these recitals still resound with an air of freshness and untainted beauty. Each of the 15 songs is dedicated to artistic figures such as Don Byas, James Baldwin, Sarah Vaughan and Henry Grimes who have influenced Parker’s expansive artistic world; the entire CD, however, is dedicated to the late Jeanne Lee, who passed away in Oct. 2000.

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