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William Parker/Raining On The Moon: Corn Meal Dance

William Parker’s Raining on the Moon sextet features the talents of vocalist Leena Conquest, alto saxophonist Rob Brown, trumpeter Lewis “Flip” Barnes, pianist Eri Yamamoto and drummer Hamid Drake. Brown and Barnes shine in their solos and ensemble work. Parker’s tunes call for a great deal of explicit swing, enabling the preternaturally responsive Drake to thrive. The sensitive Conquest imbues her lines with just the right amount of gospel-tinged elaboration. Yamamoto occasionally sounds as if she’s not sure of her niche, yet she’s a fine player who makes a positive contribution. Parker is content to stay in the background, speaking primarily through his compositions and the overall musical statement, which is effective though flawed. The album literally begins with a false start, perhaps symbolizing something beyond my ken, but in any case, it’s a very bad idea. Better to have edited that, and hidden or eliminated weaker cuts like “Doctor Yesterday” and “Tutsi Orphans” (Parker’s intonation on the latter is seriously iffy, and his lyrics, while obviously heartfelt, are trite and more than a little clumsy). Certainly the album would’ve benefited had the stronger performances in the middle and at the end been brought to the fore.

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