It is never too late to write about a recording that is beautiful enough to defy time. So it can be said of The Free Zen Society on Thirsty Ear, which came out in February 2007.
The explanation of a Zen state defies words even though many have been written to describe how to reach the state and why you would ever want to. The hitch is that talking about the meditation practice is taboo, according to Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, the Zen Master, author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. In other words, if you need to talk about meditating, you have not become one with the process. But, a translation of how a series of Zen states might take shape comes from the group of Matthew Shipp on piano, William Parker on bass, Zeena Parkins at the harp and Peter Gordon on electronics and percussion.
A peaceful, fluid, wavy sound palette with all kinds of sensorial associations embraces the listening space and allows the piano, bass and harp to step into that space here and again without hindrance. The rich swathing of repetitions arise predominantly from the instrumentalists. There is nothing like a solid high-pitch piano ostinato or bright single note or chordal progression to remind you of the ground you stand on and how easily you can launch yourself into a totally mind-bending activity. A dark four note pizzicato on the bass can tap into your earthliness. The harp can take you to heaven by stroking your somberness and lifting you right into the clouds. The alternation of instruments within the sound-space keeps the experience of the music unpredictable: like the rise and fall of your breath, which is the crux of life and the focal point for meditation. This recording is based in simplicity. Buoyed in this simplicity, you grab onto time and employ its eternity.