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Painter’s Spring

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William Parker holds down the low end on many of the more substantial free-blowing sessions coming out of New York these days. That is, he is a bassist-though the term seems rather limiting in terms of the role that he actually plays. These two releases find him leading two very different ensembles, allowing the listener to suss out the common elements in his playing and composing. In many respects, it is on the compositional/conceptual end of the scale that Parker makes his mark. This is not to denigrate his playing; Parker has an approach marked by definition and terrific intonation. He brings to mind Charlie Haden, but with a deeper sense of the pocket. He is very much engaged in everything that is happening in the musical moment, listening generously and quick to relate emerging threads to the larger structure of the performance.

The trio set brings him together with reedman Daniel Carter and drummer Hamid Drake. Worth commenting on are the two pieces not from Parker’s pen: Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” and the traditional “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” Parker takes Duke’s elegant theme and essentially incorporates it into his walking line, while Drake and Carter mark the changes with color. His treatment of “Gilead” is an arco solo, resplendent with resonant harmonics, playing around the theme as much as stating it. Throughout this session, Carter is a resourceful player, seldom compelled to go outside in order to express himself. Drake and Parker lock up far more than most rhythm pairs in such an improvised framework, giving the dexterous five of “Foundation #2” an almost retro gloss. All said, the set has a decidedly cool aspect that is most inviting.