(photo by Jimmy Katz)

(photo by Jimmy Katz)

Following the release of Migration of Silence Into and Out of The Tone World: Volumes 1-10 (Centering Records) and the first book-length biography, Universal Tonality: The Life and Music of William Parker (Duke University Press) earlier this year, composer, multi-instrumentalist, poet, griot, shaman, and community leader William Parker presents a pair of new trio albums which further expound on his vision. One of the most iconic and enduring bandleaders to emerge in the world over the last half century, William Parker is raising the bar higher.

With Parker’s Migration of Silence heralded from the front page of the New York Times Arts section to simultaneous cover stories in Germany’s Jazz Thing and Jazz Podium magazines to features and glowing reviews in The WIRE, The Quietus, Down Beat, Jazzwise, PopMatters, NPR’s All Songs Considered, The Brooklyn Rail, WBGO’s Jazz United and much more, 2021 began as a year of the sage beauty and urgency from one of our greatest tone poets recognized in kind. These two new works continue to expand the seemingly limitless range of his artistic expression.

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Mayan Space Station presents an electric guitar–bass–drums trio session, which can readily be appreciated as a heady / contemporary dose of psych rock, spiritual jazz, and West African desert grooves, among other vantage points. Painters Winter also presents deep groove & melody-based music, with a decidedly meditative component as part of the experience as well.

With the longest and coldest winter in remembered history still with us, this coming summer will be an ever-welcome time for both dancing and deep reflection. Each of these albums were created during Winter season in the Northern Hemisphere. As with nearly the entirety of the Migration of Silence box set, these albums were made at Park West Studios in Brooklyn with engineer Jim Clouse, with whom Parker has clearly developed a fruitful relationship. While always a prolific composer, these albums continue a particu larly profound creative flow with documentation and timely release thereof that Parker began in 2017. 

Mayan Space Station features the trio of Ava Mendoza – electric guitar, William Parker – bass, and Gerald Cleaver – drums. Cosmic multi-hued blues; perfect for space and time travel. The unparalleled rhythmic firmament created by Parker & Cleaver is matched by Mendoza in full flight. All of the promise imagined by a trio recording of these musicians with source compositions by Parker is delivered, and then some.

William Parker first worked with Ms. Mendoza on a project entitled Thunder and Flowers for his July 2019 residency at The Stone in NYC. Her prodigious talents have illuminated many projects and recordings as both leader and collaborator over the past decade plus. As is certainly clear here, in any context she is committed to bringing expressivity, energy and a wide sonic range to the music. Gerald Cleaver is an exceptionally gifted poet of drum sound who can play in the deepest of pockets and manifest all manner of sound to perfectly fit contours within the most open of forms. 

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Gerald Cleaver has worked closely with William Parker on numerous proj ects over the years, notably the nonpareil full-improvising trio, Farmers By Nature, together with Craig Taborn. Gerald has also featured on a number of masterful Parker works as leader, including his Organ Quartet and Double Sunrise Over Neptune.

William Parker is in vibrant grandmaster blossom here on double bass – in both pizzicato & bow-as-prism modes.

Regarding the album title, Parker offers: “Mayan Space Station is a conduit for peace and inspiration. It is an oasis where sound and silence navigators stop for sustenance to replenish their imaginations. It is a fictional reality that is important to the myth structure of the Tone World chronicle. In a way, musicians, and definitely these particular musicians, Ava Mendoza and Gerald Cleaver, belong to the blood line of sonic travelers who, as Sun Ra described it, ‘travel the space ways.’ Creating and re-inventing the process, allowing music to flow through their instruments.” 

Painters Winter features the trio of Daniel Carter – reeds, trumpet, flute; William Parker – bass, trombonium, shakuhachi; Hamid Drake – drums. Carter & Parker have been perpetual space-ways traveling companions since first meeting & immediately beginning to channel music together in early 1970s NYC. Their work in the collective quartet Other Dimensions In Music together with Roy Campbell & Rashid Bakr for over two decades manifest in bountifully beautiful music for the ages. They recently featured together in similarly majestic open form on the album, Seraphic Light (AUM Fidelity). Here, Carter again brings the full assembly of instruments he has for decades been a master of: trumpet, alto & tenor saxophones, clarinet and flute.

Likewise, Hamid Drake is a musician’s musician; one of the most in-demand percussionists in the world. He is in command of a vast lexicon of drum lan guages, learned and absorbed directly around the word. His frequent flyer miles could get him a ticket to Saturn and back. Drake & Parker launched their devoted “two-man big band” partnership in 2000 and haven’t stopped since. In trio with Daniel Carter, they’ve created one previous album togeth er, Painters Spring, released that same year.

Drake has made mention of his awe that William could pick up a new instru ment and make beautiful music with it from jump. The title track of Painters Winter features Parker on trombonium, one of those many instruments.

Regarding this album’s title, Parker elucidates, “It speaks to those who paint with sound, in different landscapes, to celebrate the coming of the sea sons: winter spring summer and autumn. Acknowledging the entire universe of world jazz music. Discovering the undiscovered.” And from his liner notes, “The music on this album is a tribute to the flow of rhythm as melody and pulsation. Laced with the joy and the bounce, the dance and the heartbeat. Giving a nod to all the music that has ever passed through us. Sounds we both listened to while breezes and big green kites we called leaves sailed above the trees.” 

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