William Parker is a story-teller, both musically and verbally. Sometimes, one language interprets the other. And in the interpretation, the two still work together. It is hard to imagine that Parker could separate these processes. He is entrenched in both.
When Parker’s personality is transferred to other musicians, the result is a totally bonded unit. What one musician does is contingent on what the other does, like breathing expands the lungs, and the heart pumps the blood.
Parker believes in all that is human and free. Music is the extension of the freedom. And despite the many constraints that exist due to the mere physicality of a musical instrument, music is meant to flow naturally out of the silence that precedes it. The character of the music is spoken through the character of the sounds that come out of the instruments. The character of the music shapes itself out of life experience that comes before, no matter how incidental, no matter how mundane.
In Sound Unity, the purpose of each musician seems to be to work within a steadfast rhythmic form that is boldly put forth in every digitized moment of the recording. For Parker, each musician carries a life force, a heartbeat that translates into the pervasive incessant pulse.
When the bass and drums come to the front of the sound, it is with rigor and stamina. There is nothing like being captured by Drake’s drumming. There is nothing like sinking into the depth of Parker’s plucking the strings of his bass. For these two, who are practically brothers by bloodline, doing their thing is like taking a stroll through the park. Each sound Drake makes is mysteriously irreplaceable in shape, color and time. He sings a genetic melody, the one that flows through his veins. For Parker, his bass is his body. He plays his motion-- changing his step, shifting his stance, stretching his arm length, guiding his fingers.
Barnes and Brown are a dynamic team. When the trumpet and alto sing above their bass and drums support, it is with tonal clarity and precision of musical concept. They go off on tangents and come together synchronously. They delegate themselves to manufacturing marches and pulling out the blues, magnifying their separate lines and interchanging their roles to address the sound content, the sound meaning, the sound unity.
Six tracks, six stories. The proportions of that which each musician does to contribute to telling these stories creates a balance that shall forever carry the same weight. And when the music fades away until the last note has been played by the trumpet, invested with experience, we return to silence. The cycle is complete.
This is the best quartet recording I have heard in a long time.
This quartet also made O’Neal’s Porch, also on aumfidelity; the recording was called the best album of the year, 2001, by Downbeat, The New York Times, JazzTimes, and AllAboutJazz.com.