Since 1994, bassist-composer William Parker has been writing Stan’s Hat Flapping in the Wind, an original musical about a New Mexico couple chosen to save creation by learning to play music “made from the tears of God.” Parker has thus far written more than 60 songs for the production, and on this collection 19 of them are realized by vocalist Lisa Sokolov and pianist Cooper-Moore, both longtime Parker collaborators uniquely suited to harnessing this music’s optimism and purity.
Parker’s songs blend an often-doleful melodic approach with lyrics nearly overwhelming in their evocations of natural beauty and universal harmony. The anthemic “All Love” invites the listener to “say what it is that makes the sun rise,” and flowers are granted world-beating might on the heart-pounding “The Greatest Revolutionary.” Other songs pay tribute to fallen musical titans. The sharp-edged “Eternal (for Ornette Coleman)” foregrounds the saxophonist-composer’s message that “eternal is the voice of love.” “For Jeanne Lee” finds the groundbreaking vocalist at a fantastical bus stop where music is “dripping on the ground,” and composer-cornetist Butch Morris is hailed with “Soul in Heaven,” a paean so disarmingly direct it feels like a new standard in waiting.
Sokolov’s vocals are shot through with conviction, whether she’s hitting voice-cracking high tones on “Hero’s Song” or trilling and sighing over squalling phrases from guest cellist Jake Sokolov-Gonzalez on “Invocation (for David S. Ware).” The unvarnished humanity of Sokolov’s voice is beautifully offset by Cooper-Moore, who brings immaculate presence to every note, from his end-over-end runs on “The Death of Death” to his icily moving minimalistic repetitions on “Autumn Song.” It is of course possible that the completed Stan’s Hat may never see the light of day, but this sampling of Parker’s work-in-progress is a commanding achievement in its own right.