Reviews - WILLIAM PARKER / In Order To Survive
The Peach Orchard... (AUM010/11)

COPPER PRESS Issue One, Spring 1999
The Peach Orchard marks a new high for AUM Fidelity, a label blessed with the talents of such musicians as Joe Morris, David S. Ware, Matthew Shipp, Daniel Carter, and many others. Highly diverse in its compositional parameters, this double-CD reveres jazz's colorful history as much as it soars to new heights of improvisational glory, all while unfolding from the beautiful compositions sketched by bassist William Parker. Over eight pieces, Rob Brown demonstrates his masterful use of melody, his spiraling solos that vary widely in pitch and speeds, and his mindful usage of space. Having helped set the tone and melody line for a piece, Brown customarily bows out for lengthy intervals while pianist Cooper-Moore explores in fluid flurries. Cooper-Moore, a brilliant and inventive player who, with Matt Shipp taking a recording sabbatical, is rising into (my) critical consciousness at a perfect time. His playful spats involve joyous sheets of punchy plinking while his slower moments exude a graceful balladry. Drummer Susie Ibarra can be heard rumbling from all corners of her kit. Her extended solo on "Moholo," a piece dedicated to black South African expatriate drummer Louis Moholo, is a lucid stretch of inspired rattles and idiosyncratic quirks Parker accents with nimble, lurching plucks. Parker's basslines throughout the record are fun. Often, they walk along in a bluesy sort of progression. He loses himself in the various moods of these pieces, where one can hear him viciously rubbing with a bow or resoundly snapping his strings. Assif Tsahar makes a pointed appearance on the gorgeous and orchestral "Posium Pendasem #3," which features a beautiful lamentation from Cooper-Moore. In these pieces you will hear history, you will sense the catalysts, feel joy, passion, sorrow, and, as always in the work of William Parker, hope. Hope in the form of optimism through the acquisition of wisdom, of hope through the uplifting of the human spirit. I certainly feel the charge. -Steve Brydges

As a leader, William Parker has been thankfully finding more and more opportunities to exercise his unique vision, most recently on the phenomenal The Peach Orchard (AUM Fidelity) from his group In Order to Survive. It's a double CD release, giving Parker and the group plenty of space to follow their individual paths, as mapped by Parker's compositions, observing the brilliant, intricate patterns created as they gracefully diverge, following their own inner motivations for a while, before converging once again into ecstatic harmony. Parker plays the role of a leader well, providing an explosively creative center for the group to realize his conceptions around. The group's reed voice comes from Rob Brown, whose alto work has found a greater maturity of late as he grows into his role as one of NY's finest. And once again, Susie Ibarra is a stunning dynamo, exuding inspired essence all over the place. Making it a quartet is Cooper-Moore on piano, bringing his poised melodicism and staccato counterpoint to bear within the group sound. With its perfect mix of freedom and composition, The Peach Orchard is a true landmark for both Parker's career and creative music in general. -Chris Rice



HARVEST TIME. Musically, I hereby officially dub 1999 the year of the 'best of' list. As we move closer towards the next century, there's a good chance that we're all going to be reading and hearing a lot of opinions on what constitutes the best of a particular genre or category over the past 100 years. Admittedly, the choices are almost endless - the best albums, concerts, musicians - you get the picture. Well, since I've done the dubbing, I'll also take first dibs. The subject - the best jazz quartets of the 1900s. For the sake of brevity, I'll limit my choices to three.

First and foremost is the Modern Jazz Quartet. MJQ were the original practitioners of the stately cool. Formed in 1952, MJQ was a direct outgrowth of the John Birks Gillespie Orchestra (who could ask for a better teacher of the 'cool' than Diz), and the first small jazz ensemble to present formal concerts in concert halls. The measured, calm playing and inherent style of MJQ's members - vibist Milt Jackson, Percy Heath (replacing original bassist Ray Brown), Connie Kay (replacing original drummer Kenny Clarke), and pianist and musical director John Lewis - was a precursor to all that cool shit that was to follow, from early Miles to contemporary Hargrove. As historic and memorable as MJQ's music was, looking back, their original style seemed to be as much a part of their impact as the notes and tones that their instruments produced.

My second choice is the John Coltrane Quartet. Formed in the early 1960s, and featuring Coltrane on reeds, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones, Trane's quartet was the first to successfully bridge a respect for the historical canons of past logics while simultaneously extending the possibilities of music forward into less charted terrain. Just a mere sampling of some of the memorable titles rendered by the JCQ - 'Niama', 'Afro Blue', 'Miles Mode' - bears this out.

Which brings me to my third, admittedly, unlikely choice. It's been near 50 years since MJQ's sonorous seeds were first sowed, and 40 years since JCQ harvested them to new ends. My third choice is bassist William Parker's In Order to Survive Quartet. The reason: Parker's quartet provides the greatest opportunity to coax the next breath of new light into jazz music's still fertile terrain.

The first quartet recording from Parker's IOTS was 1996's Compassion Seizes Bed-Stuy (Homestead Records), a powerful recording that was equal parts lush and luminous. Thankfully, the same ensemble - alto saxophonist Rob Brown, pianist Cooper-Moore, and drummer Susie Ibarra - is featured on The Peach Orchard (AUM Fidelity), the latest recording from the quartet. This double CD builds upon the compositional aspects of it's predecessor. Parker continues to craft some of the most memorably tuneful compositions (you'll likely be humming the melodies in your head) in the creative improvised music sub-genre. 'Thot', the CD's opening selection, is a perfect example. Basically a blues, it begins with Parker uncharacteristically entering with a conventional four-note walking bass, accompanied by Brown's own four-note theme; only each note from Brown is stretched across Parker's entire four-tone stroll. The central theme constructed from Parker and Brown's union is soon both complimented and deconstructed by piano and percussion insertions from Cooper-Moore and Ibarra. 'Theme from Pelikan' and 'In Order to Survive' employ similar constructs - walking bass line, finger-popping rhythms, and memorable themes that seem to 'swing' in ways not often attributed to avant music.

Throughout the CD, original thematic paradigms are tectonically erected, rejected, and reestablished. The apocalyptic entry of Cooper-Moore's piano tremolos on the introduction to the title piece eerily evoke the advancement of the US Calvary, in a piece that laments the army's forceful transformation of the Navaho land in what is now known as New Mexico. On 'Moholo', dedicated to South African expatriate drummer Louis Moholo, Ibarra's decision to employ mallets (low end) and cymbals (high-end) effectively evokes the contrasting pleasure and pain that Moholo may have felt upon leaving his tyrannical homeland in pursuit of musical and personal liberties. The double CD's highlight piece is 'Posium Pendasem #3', a haunting dirge that is part of Parker's longer song cycle dubbed 'The Bronx Mysteries'. The piece, which is augmented by the bass clarinet work of Assif Tsahar serves as a showcase for Parker's splendid bowed bass work.

Like the MJQ and JCQ, much has been written about the members of Parker's IOTS quartet. Parker, Brown, and Ibarra are each leaders in their own right. Besides, who could possibly advance upon Parker's liner note description of Brown as "…sculpt(ing) passionate sound pyramids from (his) saxophone", or Ibarra "…sounding like an African drum choir traveling through Tibet." Particular mention should be made, though, of pianist Cooper-Moore. It's been reported that, outside of his own groups, his artistry is exclusive to the ensembles of Parker. His playing consistently provides a clarity and economy the provides the perfect foil to Parker's structural contours, even in the music's most cacophonous moments.

THE PEACH ORCHARD draws its inspiration from events that took place on the Navaho land in what is now called New Mexico. The great Navaho chief Manuelito and his people were fighting against being pushed out of their homelands by the United States Army. Out of all the things the Navaho cultivated they loved their peach orchards the most. In the end of this struggle they like all Native Americans lost everything, including their cherished peach orchard which was destroyed. In reading about this I immediately felt a very deep sadness. I can only imagine the sadness they must have felt. It was the beginning of the end. In this composition you can hear the massive blanketing of America by Europe; you can also hear the voice not only of Manuelito, but of Nana, Geronimo, Wovoka, Sitting Bull, Kicking Bird, Kicking Bear, and all of the others." -- William Parker from the notes.

JAZZIZ February 1999
On the two-CD set The Peach Orchard (AUM Fidelity), the third and latest recording from Parker's acclaimed In Order to Survive combo with pianist Cooper Moore, alto saxophonist Rob Brown, and drummer Susie Ibarra, the bassist's typical fast and furious tunes make for some mystical developments. "Playing with energy and drive," explains the bassist, "is a very good way of getting sound to move. It gets you out of your present state into another state. Like a plane taking off, you have to reach a certain velocity to get out of the atmosphere."

The group infuses high-intensity energy into emphatic mediations across a range of subject matter, including nature ("Leaf Dance"), ancient Egypt ("Thot"), and the genocide of the Native Americans (the title track). And at the heart of every piece beats Parker's ethos of the musician as a storyteller. "Whether you play loud or whether you play soft," he says, "you have to tell a story to make the music happen."

On the sprawling, 20-minute title track, you can hear what Parker refers to in the liner notes as "the massive blanketing of America by Europe" in Brown's overwhelming barrage of upper-register shrieks on alto sax. "Theme for Pelikan," a tribute to poet, painter, philosopher, and musician Dr. E. Pelikan Chalto, cleverly conveys the multi-dimensional talents of its namesake by starting with a simple folk theme and evolving into a vast, protean arragement. "Leaf Dance" mirrors the uncanny harmony of the natural world by developing up to four distinctive grooves at once. The group's bluesy theme song, "In Order to Survive," swings with a tenacious, optimistic bounce that nobly implies a tale of self-determination against a music industry hostile to novel ideas (i.e., in order to survive, creative musicians must stay positive and persevere against all odds). -Sam Prestianni