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Album Review

Parker, William / Raining On The Moon – “Corn Meal Dance ” – [Aum Fidelity]

Daryl Licht   9/18/2007   CD, Jazz

William Parker must either go without ever sleeping or somehow be able to suspend time. His masterful bass work graces seemingly almost every significant contemporary free jazz release and he leads several of his own ongoing projects, in addition to working as a music teacher and author. This disc is the second full-length release from his Raining On The Moon project and all the material was composed (both the music and the lyrics) by Parker. In addition to Parker on bass, this sextet is rounded out by an outstanding cast of musicians: Rob Brown (alto saxophone), Hamid Drake (drums), Lewis Barnes (trumpet), Eri Yamamoto (piano) and Leena Conquest on vocals.

This album may be somewhat of a surprise to the uninitiated. There are very few moments of the extraordinary free jazz for which Parker is famous; although, the players do perform quite admirably in their limited opportunities to step out, with Yamamoto???s contributions being particularly noteworthy. The nine tracks on this album focus on music in the long-running tradition of jazz pop vocals. In particular, it would seem, comparisons to the Sun Ra Arkestra seem unavoidably appropriate. Musically, this fine ensemble, like the Arkestra, creates swinging celestial afro-jazz of a high order. In fact, ???Gilmore’s Hat??? (a nod to long-time Sun Ra collaborator/right hand man John Gilmore, one might presume) includes lines such as ???rocketship to the moon??? and ???a place in space???. In addition, the big star of this set, incredible vocalist Leena Conquest, sounds uncannily like Sun Ra???s famous ???space vocalist??? June Tyson, beautifully delivering socially conscious lyrics which focus on issues such as poverty, oppression, and racism. Despite the heavy subject matter, however, the overall tone of this material is joyous and optimistic. Highlights include ???Doctor Yesterday???, ???Tutsi Orphans???, ???Soledad???, and the amazing ???Land Song???. ???Corn Meal Dance??? is another triumphant release from one of the giants of contemporary American music.

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