Bradley Parker-Sparrow: The New World

I have a few friends and associates from the world of spoken word/poetry who have heard of Bradley Parker Sparrow’s latest album, The New World. They note that Parker-Sparrow, the Chicago born pianist and composer, does take chances on The New World mostly by including a few tracks that are, in fact, spoken word recordings but meander a bit and aren’t totally guided by the rhythm of the voice. Of those on The New World, “Kanye OK, OK” is the most interesting, though it too could use more development, and probably a realization that spoken word almost always relies upon an outstanding literary composition to make the song memorable.

This does not mean The New World is not good music; it just means that Parker-Sparrow and his band have much more to say on some of the other compositions than on the pure spoken word attempts.

Take “Pinwheel” for example, a song driven by the very talented Joanie Pallatto’s vocalizations, but also the incessant rhythm tracks, and atmospheric beats that are always present. Pallatto (she also wrote the liner notes to The New World) is married to Parker-Sparrow for the record and it is clear there is a connection aesthetically to the overall mission of this release.

But the album, driven in part by this concept of newness (the title The New World creates all sorts of questions for the listener), also has somber moments such as the beginning with “Overture: The New World.” Two musicians drive this one: Francis Wong on tenor sax ringing in his moods and colors, and Tatsu Aoki, the now well known bassist, whose deep bow driven bass playing, is strong but not offensive. The two create quite a contrast with the high sax notes coupled with the heavy with emotion bass parts.

“The Finale: The New World” is a return to “The Overture” as Sparrow-Parker allows Pallatto to riff behind “The Overture” with vocals and spoken word parts only to add an appendage of keyboard parts with Pallatto continuing with more of the same. It is monologue and vocals and the re-configuring of the fine work of Aoki and Wong. This tune and all the others here are just part of the surprise that is The New World and the musical universe of Bradley Parker-Sparrow.