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Not many musicians in creative improvised music can surpass William Parker
in terms of fecundity and diversity of group memberships. His bass has served
as fulcrum on near countless sessions and his projects as a leader suggest
a revolving and ever expanding circle.
The roster of this recent trio suggests longevity far shorter than other entries in the Parker cosmology. More accurately, it's collaboration between an American rhythm team and Swedish horn hero Anders Gahnold that probably won't be repeated. Gahnold's not likely to raise the brows of recognition on most listeners, but his resume is several decades deep and boasts a trio that at one time included South African expatriate Johnny Dyani in the bass chair. In other words, he's been around the block and is far from the novice his comparative anonymity might initially connote.
Together the three players converge for what is essentially a blowing date built around three relatively simple motifs and a surplus of extended improvisatory interplay.
The music starts off strong with a bowed prelude from Parker that smoothly subverts these minor sonic intrusions. His thick mahogany tone, richly sculpted and initially free from sawing excesses, slips into a somber mood. Hamid Drake soon enters with dour mallets and clipped cymbal accents further suggesting a mood of melancholia. Hopeful strains find purchase in Gahnold's initial phrasings, which dance and slide across Parker's delicate arco harmonics. It's a piece that unfolds gradually, but deliberately into the pocket of one of Parker and Drake's signature grooves. Gahnold responds, pursing his embouchure a bit and coarsening his tone into a gravel-flecked growl, but never resorting to altissimo squeals or other varieties of register sleight-of-hand.
"The Undertaker's Dance" strays significantly away from any cadaverous connotations its title might imply. If anything it's an extended improvisation more celebratory than its predecessor. The beginning is abrupt, catching the trio in mid-stride and embroiled in a fast-rocketing tempo. Gahnold wastes no time wailing and channels his breath with geyser-like velocity through his reed, working his pads in fast collusion with the extemporaneous ideas that pour forth. Parker and Drake approximate a single propulsive entity behind him, eventually breaking apart for a string-torquing workout by the bassist that illustrates the Atlas-sized muscularity of his fingers. The saxophonist's return salvo starts calmly, but quickly builds steam in another rush of blustery phrasings steeped in a blistering metallic sheen.
Substantial as they are, these initial pieces appear warm-ups for the grand
finale, a half-hour long opus that rings in a shade rough around the edges
through long-winded soliloquies from each of the players and overly incessant
ostinatos by Parker.
Gahnold may never garner the 'household name' status Parker and Drake are swiftly securing, but he's no slouch either and fits himself into the formidable surroundings with gusto. For their parts, Parker and Drake rest on several of their signature vamps and suspensions at various points, and stray only occasionally from their usual game plan. Still, the set turns in some solid fireworks and in the final summation proves quite engaging from start to stop.
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