By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
There's an old joke. After days of incessant jungle drums, Bwana is going nuts. But when the noise finally subsides, the native guide warns it's about to get much worse: "When drums stop, bass solo begins."
The joke doesn't account for William Parker. Here's one bassist whose clarity, cohesion, phrasing and rhythmic push are only the beginning. Embedded in each oracular statement is a methodology appropriate to it -- the variety of sounds the man musters is incredible enough that, in the liner notes to Sanctions, Parker feels the need to describe no less than 14 ways he plays bass. "Drum technique: A percussive technique where I relate the bass to a trap drum set" -- he goes on to explain which string corresponds to which part of the kit. Or "Turn bowing: The concept of turning the wrist outward, flicking the bow in a forward motion on a downbow." The only downside to this music lesson is that it leaves little room for the poetic liner notes Parker usually includes with each CD. Nevertheless, he does manage to squeeze in a few words about what he stands for: "It is not about jazz, it is about sound as revealed through the mysteries of life. About those who have said yes to the whisper of a flower and the shout of a blue hurricane."
SINCE MOST OF THIS HAS BEEN ABOUT INDIVIDUALITY, it seems right to wrap it up with a little perspective on broad cooperation. It was 1990 when Matthew Shipp met Roscoe Mitchell, the wind player who had begun his renowned association with the Art Ensemble of Chicago in 1969. Shipp cut a beautiful duo album with Mitchell on 2.13.61 Records in 1996, and has been one of Mitchell's top piano choices for years. Now comes one of those rare moments in a veteran edgeman's career when he can combine the work of three generations of players -- including Shipp and Parker -- to make music that talks to you.
Mitchell has another fine album out at the moment -- In Walked Buckner, on Delmark -- but his current ECM release, Nine To Get Ready, is something special. It's nine musicians (the rest are Hugh Ragin, George Lewis, Craig Taborn, Jaribu Shahid, Tani Tabbal and Gerald Cleaver) who, for the first half of the disc anyway, subordinate their soloist egos to membership in a jazz orchestra that would turn the head of even the late Gil Evans. Not that there's anything wrong with solos; Nine, though, melds strong individual voices like those of Mitchell and trombonist Lewis to create the kind of distinctive blend you would never find in an overglossed philharmonic: "Leola" is a lovely improvised fugue based on a few preselected notes; "Dream and Response" is slow and free; the horn and piano melodies of "Jamaican Farewell" drift quietly over each other.
The end of Nine gets back to demonstrating how much booty these guys can kick. The beginning is something else -- 18 hands extended. It lets you know that this "outside" music can, when it wants to, get inside anybody.
MATTHEW SHIPP DUO WITH WILLIAM PARKER| DNA (Thirsty Ear)
WILLIAM PARKER | LIFTING THE SANCTIONS (No More)
ROSCOE MITCHELL | NINE TO GET READY (ECM)