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William Parker Clarinet Trio - Bob's Pink Cadillac (2CD-2001)

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A Darker Shade Of Blue

MTE32 recorded in January 2001 at Strobe-light Sound, Brooklyn, NY                                              MTE 33 recorded on 1 August 2001 at Tonic,NYC  
Front cover photograph by Charles Gross
Design – Philip Price (2)
Mastered by – Jim Hemingway, Producer – Michael Ehlers, Recorded by – Andrei Strobert

Since the unfortunate demise of In Order To Survive, William Parker hasexperimented with a couple different small group settings to replace thatparticular outlet for his creative muse. With the current quartet lineup of RobBrown, Lewis Barnes and Hamid Drake, Parker seems to have found a winningcombination of drive and group chemistry that can handle his open-endedcompositions with mammoth finesse. The trio front has proved slightly moreproblematic for the tenacious bassist—the Painter’s Spring (Thirsty Ear)unit, rounded out by Drake and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Carter, looked goodon paper but ultimately lacked the luster so essential to Parker’s otherensembles.

On Bob’s Pink Cadillac, Parker unveils a new trio vision—sounding as2002 as it does 1965. Being a bass-led trio comprised of clarinet, bass anddrums, combined with the fact that the clarinetist in question is the legendaryPerry Robinson, evokes more than a curious parallel to fellow bassist HenryGrimes’ classic ESP-Disk session The Call. Thanks to time andtechnology, we get a program of music much more fully realized than the 30minutes offered up by Grimes, Robinson and drummer Tom Price back in theday—Parker’s Clarinet Trio presents a disc each of studio and live materialthat proposes a logical extension of Grimes’ mid-60′s genius in remarkableaudiophile clarity.

The first disc consists of the group’s studio recordings, four extended piecesthat speak to the trio’s monumental tide of creative energy. In fact, the firstthree tracks contend with the best work Parker’s ever done—”Bob’s PinkCadillac” takes advantage of the depth and warmth of Robinson’s clarinetin an unbelievable shuffleboil swing; “Overcoat In The River”captures Robinson carving out an angular melody over Parker and Walter Perkins’steamrolling rhythm section; and “Blue Flower” starts at hard bluesand maps out the entire spectrum of jazz history, only to come full circle in awild blues finale that finds Robinson literally stretching notes out from NewOrleans to Chicago. The lengthy “Fence In The Snow” closes the discon a more episodic note, as the trio experiments with orchestra bells, howlingvocalise and blistering pulse-time mayhem—all tenuously held together with apomp and circumstance of epic proportion.

Although recorded eight months later, the live disc conceptually picks up where”Fence In The Snow” left off. Over the course of nearly 59 minutes,the trio negotiates the ambitious improvisatory terrain of “EbonyFantasy” in a flurry of dynamic fluctuations. The group seemingly attemptsto cover all possible ground from loose blues riffing to klezmeresque two-step,steady 4/4 swing to folksy Dixieland romp—all on the wings of Robinson’sincomparable technique, Parker’s sawtoothed storms and staccato dances andPerkins’ humble propulsion. Unfortunately, it’s that same relentless push thatmakes the live set more difficult to sit through. Instead of fully developingideas when they hit a collective spark, it sounds more as if the trio is tryingto overturn too many stones without exploring the potential beneath the onesthey’ve already upended—a fascinating document, yet frustrating in the face ofthe studio session’s more focused compositions.

William Parker’s music has always conveyed a sense of searching, whethercomposed for solo bass, small jazz combo, or the Little Huey Creative MusicOrchestra. With the Clarinet Trio (and perhaps trios in general), it seems asif the mystic pyramid presents an almost overwhelming number of directions inwhich to search for musical answers. Three is, after all, the magic number—andwe should be thankful for another opportunity to witness Parker unlocking itsfull power before our very ears.

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Uri Hornstein

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