A corner of the music world where female jazz vocalists congregate often is an intimate club setting. The jazz standard is standard fare. Uprooting jazz standards necessitates moving out of the darkness of the night club into the light of the real world. To reform the lyrics of song with poetry addressing African-American civilization at its core takes major steps towards unveiling how human beings generally need to act. For, the plight of the impoverished, the sick, the wrongfully accused, and those who work the earth is the plight of the human being, not only the African-American. Telling the stories enough might actually affect change someday so that we move beyond anger and thoughtlessness, beget compassion and sustain cultural richness. That is how William Parker thinks. And he has harnessed his Raining on the Moon band from 2002 to communicate his omnipresent message in the recording Corn Meal Dance from AumFidelity, 2007.
From the outset, when Parker’s voice is heard counting out the beat twice ("Doctor Yesterday"), the rhythm projects itself through every one of the six instruments of the band. Each instrument becomes a medium for the message as much as the words sung by vocalist Leena Conquest.
Conquest paints the mood of every song. Every word can be heard; no word should be forgotten. The drumming provides sensitive percussive bridges between musical phrases and supplies an untouchable, rhythmically swinging backbone for the ensemble. The drumming is linked inextricably to the bass playing. The bass most eloquently, yet briefly, solos in "Soledad" and in "Land Song," where it supplies an unremitting ground. The alto and the trumpet work together as a synchronous unit, exemplified in "Corn Meal Dance" and "Land Song" and as contrapuntal complements in "Old Tears." The piano assumes an indisputable role as part of the rhythmic structure of the group, yet offers solid accompaniment for Conquest in "Prayer" and a compelling improvisation in "Land Song."
Improvisational interludes weave throughout the soundscape. The trumpet builds a bright, stark introduction for the vocalist in "Doctor Yesterday." In "Soledad," the alto personifies the lyrics "who will be the first to sing in their own voice." This musical line transforms into hard mid-range tones and vibratos from the trumpet and then into insistent trills, chords and dissolving phrases from the piano. The alto sax solos brilliantly, with the support of walking bass-lines and consistently ridden cymbals, in a glistening dance in "Land Song." A set of rich alto arpeggios intermixes with melody in "Old Tears." This song also features the muted trumpet and alto shaping a mournful ballad, which melody the piano develops and takes through trills and runs up the keyboard.
The most salient aspect of this recording is that the members of the group need each other. No one person can be absent from the music. It is that intertwined. Every word and note combination of Corn Meal Dance says "won’t somebody help us now?" Help us to make sense of the world of the living.