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William Parker Quartet: Sound Unity

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For many years now, bassist William Parker has devoted his enormous energies to creative improvised music. His emphasis has been two-pronged, consisting of both the jazz-based avant-gardism birthed in the ’60s and a non-idiomatic strain with roots in folk cultures. This pair of albums documents Parker’s two hemispheres respectively, with vastly different but equally serious results.

Sound Unity features a quartet with Parker, drummer Hamid Drake, trumpeter Lewis Barnes and alto saxophonist Rob Brown. In this regard, it’s a sequel to O’Neal’s Porch, the well-received album that introduced the group in 2000. The new disc, recorded live in Canada during a summer tour last year, advances Parker’s claim to a post-bop experimentalism that swings. Barnes and Brown make an engaging frontline pair, proficient in impromptu tandem movements as well as witty call and response; Drake and Parker, as they’ve proven elsewhere, form a dynamic rhythmic axis. Altogether, the quartet often suggests Ornette Coleman, in terms of both rhythm and color. But notwithstanding “Wood Flute Song,” a tribute to Coleman’s old partner Don Cherry, it reaches beyond emulation for its own progressive means.

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