William Parker to Receive Lifetime Achievement award at Vision Fest

The Vision 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award will be given at Roulette Intermedium, on June 18, 2024

William Parker to Receive Lifetime Achievement award at Vision Fest

The Vision 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award will be given at Roulette Intermedium, on June 18, 2024

Arts for Art is proud to announce that William Parker, legendary bassist, composer, improvisor, multi-instrumentalist, author, and community leader will be the recipient of the Vision 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award, taking place at Roulette Intermedium, on June 18, 2024.

“It is the role of the artist to dance, sing, shout and whisper about all that is wonderful, beautiful and majestic. To mirror and project the present and future, to tell us the stories inside little children’s hearts (giving us a view beyond the horizon). Communicating by the language of stone, wood, soil, the language of happiness, sadness and joy. It is the role of the artist to incite political, social and spiritual revolution. To awaken us from our sleep and never let us forget our obligations as human beings… The idea is to live strongly within this vision without compromises even after being met by a cold grey world that could care less about vision, a world that makes insensitivity and murder of idealism and individualism a standard.”– William Parker, Bassist, Composer, Educator, Community Leader

In the words of Gargi Shindé, former AFA Board member:
To the community he calls home in the Lower East Side of New York City, the professional accomplishments of William Parker are not separate from his humanitarian vision to heal a world severed by capitalistic greed and hyper commodification of culture. Global consequences of American imperialism, labor exploitation, disenfranchisement in literacy and education, and aggressive urban gentrification—William’s creative repertoire is an unceasing response to the perpetually shifting targets of socio-political disenfranchisement.

As a world-renowned bassist, improviser, composer, poet, writer, and educator, William Parker brings together music, words, sound, and organizing through his innumerable recordings and live performances, operas, compositions for dance, plays, and much more. His practice, in a single lifetime, encompasses a range that evades even the most accomplished artists. He is the very embodiment of an arts ecosystem, without the spectre of corporate artifice and arts bureaucracy. William’s is a “True Self Art” as the American art critic and historian Donald Kuspit suggests, where “the self is in perpetual creative process,” a being “in perpetual metamorphic motion.” William has recorded over one hundred and fifty albums and has taught and mentored hundreds of young musicians and artists who are today the successors of the free jazz music legacy. As notions of gender inclusivity devolve into a pervasive buzzword, William has for decades created spaces for women in the vanguard of his aesthetic experimentation within large and small ensembles, and with co-editor Renate Da Rin, he published Giving Birth to Sound, a collection of essays authored by forty-eight women sound artists from North America and the global south on their life experiences and creative processes.

In 2014, The Doris Duke Foundation awarded William its largest national prize to “propel leading artists” and unlock new levels of creativity. Indeed, as a Doris Duke Artist, William’s impact on the free jazz scene for over forty years at the time was acknowledged widely, and enabled him to publish his four-part book series Conversations, an invaluable cultural preservation project documenting the lives and practice of the free jazz community of artists and organizers, bringing those individuals, as William states, “out of the realms of myth and more into the realms of reality.”  Composer and MacArthur Fellow John Zorn has called Conversations, “oral history at its best.” 

William memorializes a movement and exemplifies the kind of artist that is becoming a rarity in contemporary America. He has resisted the devolvement and sublimation of his aesthetic into socially acceptable art, not because he inhabits the margins of the mainstream as a free jazz icon, but because he radically transforms the margins into locations of artistic power. Through his collaborations with a constellation of influential artists as Cecil Taylor, David S. Ware, Don Cherry, Hamid Drake, Jeanne Lee, Maxine Sullivan, Marilyn Crispell, Milford Graves, and Peter Brotzmann, and with William’s key collaborator, artistic and life partner and muse, his wife Patricia Nicholson, the primary force behind New York Sound Unity Festival (1984) and Vision Fest, the global music gathering of creative improvisers, William is, in poet Fred Moten’s words, “the most important artist living in the world today.”

What we inherit from William Parker as creative artists, listeners, and future patrons of free jazz, is a living heritage whose origins and practice are willed into the communal encounter every day in New York City. Despite a history of philanthropic divestment from this art, William and Patricia have infused the astonishment and wonder of free jazz into the American consciousness through child and youth programs where William’s distinct pedagogy imparts the values of this music to a new generation, and free programming to audiences of all ages throughout the community gardens of the Lower East Side neighborhood.

At a precarious moment in the world, when so much divides us, William’s words provide a critical pause:

Ask a starving child what jazz is and that child might say jazz is a hot plate of food. In the final analysis, who cares what jazz is if we have no respect for life, if the world is dying.” – William Parker

William Parker Biography

A leader in the NYC FreeJazz movement since his arrival in Manhattan, from the Bronx, in 1971,  William Parker revolutionized bass playing, using double bow and other extended techniques to bring the bass to the forefront of the band while still holding down the bottom. Because Parker sees music as living, ever-changing, he developed a unique approach to the interplay of improvisation as a key element in composition as his bands well represent. Parker is an author and educator, a humorist, and an idealist (he co-led with Patricia Nicholson the Artists for a Free World Marching Band in over 40 demonstrations from 2017 to 2021). He has recorded over 250 albums, published 10 books, and taught and mentored hundreds of young musicians and artists.

Parker’s current active bands include his young new 15 piece-band Huey’s PocketWatch, the renowned sextet, Raining on the Moon, Mayan Space Station, his opera Trail of Tears, as well as special projects such as The Essence Of Ellington, the Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield among others. He has composed music for The Wroclaw Symphony Orchestra as well as a host of commissions by large and small ensembles.  He has composed music and librettos for numerous multi-media operas including Vision Peace and Battle Cries at LaMaMa, and Mass for the Healing World in Verona. In addition, he has written hundreds of pieces of vocal and small band music. All of Parker’s music incorporates his concept of Universal Tonality. They all include improvisational languages and possibilities.

Over the decades, Parker has gained a reputation as a leader in the Black Creative Improvised Music and art scene, He has been a connector across artistic disciplines with a long-term collaboration with poet, and author David Budbill, and with Amiri Baraka and various dance companies including an ongoing collaboration with Patricia Nicholson, dancer, and poet that began in the 1970s, and is now entitled Hope Cries for Justice. Parker has his visual art practice by creating collages and paintings. Parker has published a series of short poetry books.

He has been an important source of first and secondhand information on the history of creative music, speaking on panels and teaching in classrooms. As well as with his four hefty volumes of interviews with creative musicians published by RogueArt, Conversations I, II. III & IV.  He is the subject of an exhaustive 468-page “sessionography” that documents thousands of performances and recording sessions, a remarkable chronicle of his prolific creative life. Parker is also the subject of an acclaimed biography, published in 2021 by Duke University Press entitled, Universal Tonality.

William Parker performs all over the world but he always returns to New York’s Lower East Side, where he has lived since 1975.

Early Days

William Parker grew up in the South Bronx, playing sports, and writing plays and philosophical treatises.  All music, especially all jazz music, was an important part of his early development. He received bass instruction at the JazzMobile, and private lessons from Jimmy Garrison and a single critical lesson from Wilbur Ware.  Parker played and practiced incessantly. He began playing professionally in 1971, traveling downtown to the Firehouse on East 11 St then proceed to Studio We on Eldridge and finally ended up at a basement space under the Waverly Theater where he would play into the early morning hours or at Studio Rivbea on Bond Street where in 1973 he met his wife Patricia Nicholson.  In the 70’s he began playing with and composing music for his peers, Jemeel Moondoc, Arthur Williams, Daniel Carter, Roy Campbell, Billy Bang, Raphe Malik, David S. Ware, Cooper-Moore aka Gene Ashton as well as music/dance projects with Patricia Nicholson. He also began working with older musicians such as Frank Lowe, Billy Higgins, Don Cherry, Sunny Murray and Ed Blackwell. In 1980 he became the bass player with Cecil Taylor and began regularly touring.  In the 80’s he also began to work with Milford Graves, Charles Gayle, Bill Dixon, Rashied Ali.  As well he could be heard playing with European musicians Peter Kowald, Peter Brotzmann, Derek Bailey, Han Bennick, John Tchicai and South African, Louis Moholo.

Although he had been regularly composing since the early 1970’s it wasn’t until the mid-90’s that energies were focused on having his own work as a composer-bandleader released on record. The acclaimed “Compassion Seizes Bed-Stuy” (1996) was the first such work to be released on an established U.S. label. The following year, with William Parker, as a foundational inspiration, the AUM Fidelity label was launched, and has remained a principal source of his vast scope of work on record ever since.

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Bass Magazine   By: Bass Magazine