William Parker Orchestra – Essence of Ellington / Live in Milano

William Parker Orchestra – Essence of Ellington / Live in Milano

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[CENTERING 1008/1009] - Download includes extensive PDF with full notes & art

William Parker: bass, arrangements, compositions
Hamid Drake: drums
Dave Burrell: piano
Kidd Jordan: tenor sax
Dave Sewelson: baritone sax
Sabir Mateen: clarinet & tenor sax
Rob Brown: alto sax
Darius Jones: alto sax
Ras Moshe: soprano & tenor sax
Steve Swell: trombone
Willie Applewhite: trombone
Roy Campbell: trumpet & flugelhorn
Matt Lavelle: trumpet
Ernie Odoom: voice

Notes from William Parker on this project:
“When I was 7 years old my father would come home from work and play the Ellington recording “Live at Newport 1957” almost every night. I would dance to this glorious music until I was exhausted. The essence was the glow around the music; it was the aura that identified each sound. There was this feeling of jubilation attached to each rhythm and melody as it moved across space. With each musician speaking in his own voice and Edward Kennedy Ellington writing for each individual, catering to their strengths and weakness yet still being true to the music. It was at that time that I heard the Essence of Ellington, the jump, the freedom, all layered in the blues. The essence is also the scream, the high note, the vamps, the singing voices and personalities of the instruments that make up the orchestra which are at all times individual. The melody will be there but it will grow wings and give birth to new themes and gestures sometimes going into trance as all sacred music eventually does. The essence of Ellington is to be your self. It's the hippest song around.” –WP

"The Wynton Marsalis paradox: the works of jazz legends deserve to be celebrated, but by treating them like classical repertoire, you lose jazz’s spirit of spontaneity and invention. It’s that essence that William Parker taps into so successfully on this glorious tribute to Sir Duke’s innovative genius, leading a peerless free jazz orchestra through radical Ellington interpretations. Ellington built his arrangements around his musicians’ personalities; an approach Parker shares, while [also] allowing the ensemble to improvise, pushing the music in several directions while swinging like crazy." –Stewart Smith, The List

"Here’s my idea: Essence of Ellington is the most profound Ellington tribute ever recorded because it’s so much more than a tribute. Parker dares to deal in that most fundamental truth of all – how do you ‘find your own way’ of presenting music that already has its own internal compositional integrity and identity? Ellington tribute albums that aim to re-create his original recorded performances are instantly time-locked, ignoring the obvious fact that his music lived, breathed and developed beyond the recording studio. And so Parker’s ensemble is filled with musicians like saxophonists Darius Jones, Rob Brown and Kidd Jordan, the trumpeter Roy Campbell, drummer Hamid Drake and pianist Dave Burrell, all reinventing Ellington’s music through their experiences of the ecstasy of free jazz. Parker’s re-compositions symbolize the historic trajectory between then and now; ‘Sophisticated Lady’ gets prefaced by ‘Essence of Sophisticated Lady’, in which Ellington’s harmonic schemata is exploded from the inside, peppered with Ernie Odoom's vocal refrain ‘Sophisticated lady, where are you now? Come sing with me – create a new destiny because the past can't last’ and re-birthed as a vehicle for improvisation. Ellington kept himself perpetually contemporary. Being authentic to the essence of what Ellington was as a composer means running with that spirit of renewal." –Philip Clark, Gramaphone

"Any real understanding of the place of a musician in history will inevitably show his relationship to others. In many ways that's the real point of a tribute – the celebration of an artist brings into play the sound of the others for whom he opened doors. In the case of this engrossing Ellington project the concomitant spirit writ large on proceedings is that of Sun Ra. In the ecstatic, eruptive nature of the horns, the busy, agitated yet precise character of the rhythm section and the tendency of the overall carriage of the music to lean right on the edge of its harmonic tracks, the presence of Herman "Sonny" Blount, as inspired and guided by Edward Kennedy, is as clear as the whistle of a Harlem airshaft. Yet, as the title suggests, this set is about reaching to the heart of one of jazz's most visionary leaders, and it is the architectural finesse of the arrangements and the strength of the band members – Jones, Jordan and Campbell are all on firing form – that hark back to the embarrassment of riches that was Hodges, Gonsalves, Anderson, et al. Equally smart is the subtle, sometimes elliptical way that Parker deploys the little known vocalist Ernie Odoom, yet his fleeting lines on 'In A Sentimental Mood' and his potent growl on 'Caravan' add much to the textural palette. Above all, Parker's see-sawing yet nailed down scores make the point that the vast, pluralistic vocabulary of Ellington's music means that swing can roll seamlessly into free improvisation without the transition feeling contrived or clunky. Parker's already vast discography boasts some accomplished orchestral offerings, and this is another highlight." –Kevin Le Gendre, Jazzwise

William Parker is an exceptionally prolific composer. The very first time that he devoted energies to the work of another was his Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield project, an artist with whom Parker fully shared the ethos of self-determination and social justice. Following on that resoundingly successful work, Italian producer Gianni M. Gualberto commissioned William to apply his singular approach to the songbook & essence of Duke Ellington, and arrange an orchestra for a world premiere performance at Teatro Manzoni in Milan. This is that concert; all listeners can be extremely grateful!

Featured in the astonishing Orchestra are an exemplary group of musicians, spanning generations. Five classics from the Ellington orchestra book are combined with four new Parker compositions, and the concert, over two hours of transforming exuberance and tenderness, is here presented in its entirety. The solos throughout are deeply inspired; with Rob Brown's extended alto intro to "Caravan" and Sabir Mateen's clarinet feature on "Ebony Interlude" being but a few standouts. "In A Sentimental Mood" is presented in duo (then trio) by Dave Burrell & Darius Jones (and vocalist Ernie Odoom), mirroring the classic rendering by Ellington & Coltrane. Nothing but sonic riches on this expansive set!

The performances and recording of this night both turned out so tremendously that WP wanted it prepared for release on his own Centering Records imprint as soon as possible, and so it was! The finished 2-CD sets came back from the plant just in time to accompany the Orchestra for the North American debut of this project at the Suoni Per Il Popolo festival, Montreal in June 2012.

1. Introduction by William Parker - 03:12
2. Portrait of Louisiana * - 20:14
3. Essence of Sophisticated Lady * / Sophisticated Lady - 26:37
4. Take the Coltrane - 21:08
5. In a Sentimental Mood - 07:27
6. Take the A Train / Ebony Interlude * - 16:34
7. Caravan - 23:15
8. The Essence of Ellington * - 14:12

* these compositions by William Parker, © Centering Music (BMI)

Produced for release on Centering Records by William Parker
This is the entire Sunday night world premiere concert
of February 5, 2012 at Teatro Manzoni in Milano, Italy
Recorded by Gianni Grassilli
Mastered by Isaiah Parker
Special thanks to Gianni M. Gualberto and Alberto Lofoco
for helping to make this concert possible.