Wood Flute Songs: Anthology/Live 2006–2012 (AUM Fidelity)

William Parker

Released November 12, 2013

DownBeat Five-Star Review






William Parker is a musician, improviser, composer, educator, and author. He plays the bass, shakuhachi, double reeds, tuba, donso ngoni and gembri. Born in 1952 in the Bronx, New York, he studied bass with Richard Davis, Art Davis, Milt Hinton, Wilber Ware, Jimmy Garrison, and Paul West. During Parker’s prolific career, he has recorded over 150 albums, had countless celebrated stage appearances, and helped shaped the jazz scene for both his peers and the youth. In 2013, Parker received the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award in recognition of his influence and impact on the creative jazz scene over the last 40 years.

William entered the music scene in 1971, playing at Studio We, Studio Rivbea, Hilly’s on The Bowery, and The Baby Grand. By the age of 20, Parker quickly became a highly sought bassist, after playing with established musicians such as Ed Blackwell, Don Cherry, Bill Dixon, Milford Graves, Billy Higgins, and Sunny Murray.  Projects with dancer and choreographer Patricia Nicholson have created a huge repertoire of composed music for multiple ensembles ranging from solo works to big band projects. In 1980, he became a member of the Cecil Taylor Unit, in which he played a prominent role for over a decade. 

Since the beginning of his career, William Parker has commanded a unique degree of respect from his fellow musicians and critics alike. In 1995, the Village Voice characterized William Parker as “the most consistently brilliant free jazz bassist of all time.” In addition to his work with artists in the United States, he has developed a strong relationship with musicians in the European Improvised Music scene such as Peter Kowald, Peter Brotzmann, Han Bennink, Tony Oxley, Derek Bailey, John Tchicai, Louis Sclavis, and Louis Moholo.  

William Parker began recording in 1994 and founded the ensembles In Order To Survive and The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. In 2001, he released O’Neal’s Porch, which marked a turn toward a more universal sound working with drummer Hamid Drake. The Raining on the Moon Quintet followed, adding vocalist Leena Conquest and the Quartet from O’Neal’s Porch. Most notable among many recent projects is the Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield

As Steve Greenlee of the Boston Globe stated in July 2002, “William Parker has emerged as the most important leader of the current avant-garde scene in jazz.” Parker has consistently worked in many of the most important groups within this genre, including his own. He currently leads The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, In Order to Survive, Raining on the Moon, Stan’s Hat Flapping in the Wind, and The Cosmic Mountain Quartet with Hamid Drake, Kidd Jordan, and Cooper-Moore.

Parker has released over 20 albums under his leadership, most reaching #1 on the CMJ charts. In 1995, he debuted The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra with the release of Flowers Grow In My Room on the Centering label.  Recent years saw the release of several monumental box sets, including 2013’s Wood Flute Songs and 2015’s For Those Who Are, Still, highlighting the work of Parker’s many groups and large ensembles.  His recordings appear on the Aum Fidelity label and his own Centering Music, among others.  

These releases and their success showcase William Parker as an outstanding composer and bandleader. From the beginning of his musical career, William Parker has been prolific; composing music for almost every group with whom he has performed. His compositions span the range of operas, oratorios, ballets, film scores, and soliloquies for solo instruments. He has also successfully explored diverse concepts in instrumentation for large and small ensembles. 

A passionate educator, William Parker has taught at Bennington College, NYU, The New England Conservatory of Music, Cal Arts, New School University and Rotterdam Conservatory of Music. He has also taught music workshops throughout the world including Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, and the Lower East Side. Parker is a theorist and author of several books including Who Owns Music?, Conversations I & II, Voices in the First Person, Scrapbook: Notes and Blueprints, Sound Journal, and The Mayor of Punkville.  Additionally, he has released three volumes of poetry and a theatre piece titled Music and the Shadow People

Track Listing:

Disc 1 – Live at Yoshi’s (Oakland) – Quartet (May 24, 2006 [1st Set])

1. Tears for the Children of Rwanda (William Parker) featuring: William Parker Quartet 25:11

2. Petit Oiseau (William Parker) featuring: William Parker Quartet 15:01

3. Groove #7 (William Parker) featuring: William Parker Quartet 14:19

4. Hopi Spirits (William Parker) featuring: William Parker Quartet 14:47

Disc 2 – Live at Yoshi’s (Oakland) – Quartet (May 24, 2006 [2nd Set])

1. Wood Flute Song (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 21:14

2. Alphaville/Daughter’s Joy/The Golden Bell (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 42:36

3. Malachi’s Mode (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 11:50

Disc 3 – Live in Houston (Texas) – Quartet (April 7, 2007 [1st Set]) 

1. Groove #7 (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 11:13

2. Hawaii (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 9:32

3. Broken Roofs/Green Paper (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 12:57

4. Hamid’s Groove/Daughter’s Joy (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 21:17

5. Malachi’s Mode (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 7:00

6. Corn Meal Dance (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 2:54

Disc 4 – Live in Houston (Texas) – Quartet (April 7, 2007 [2nd Set]) 

1. O’Neal’s Porch (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 9:51

2. Red Desert (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 9:15

3. Ojibway Song (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 14:31

4. Sunrise in the Tone World (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 6:24

5. The Square Sun (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 7:11

6. Etchings (Hamid Drake / William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 9:39

7. Ascent of the Big Spirit (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 8:36

8. Moon (William Parker) feat. William Parker Quartet 9:01

Disc 5 – Light Cottage Draped In A Curtain Of Blues – Septet
with Billy Bang, Bobby Bradford, James Spaulding
(NYC, Vision Festival, June 15, 2009)

1. O’Neal’s Porch (William Parker) feat. William Parker Septet 13:41

2. Daughter’s Joy (William Parker) feat. William Parker Septet 11:34

3. Gilmore’s Hat (William Parker) feat. William Parker Septet 7:13

4. Deep Flower/Ascent of the Big Spirit (William Parker) feat. William Parker Septet 17:10

5. Wood Flute Song (William Parker) feat. William Parker Septet 6:13

6. Chicago (William Parker) feat. William Parker Septet 9:06

Disc 6 – Creation – Ensemble
with AMR Ensemble (Geneva, Switzerland, AMR Jazz Festival, April 6, 2011)

1. Psalm for Billy Bang (William Parker) feat. William Parker Creation Ensemble 5:58

2. All I Want (William Parker) feat. William Parker Creation Ensemble 2:39

3. Earth in Pain (William Parker) feat. William Parker Creation Ensemble 19:03

4. Deep Flower (William Parker) feat. William Parker Creation Ensemble 22:44

5. Wood Flute Song (William Parker) feat. William Parker Creation Ensemble 19:00

Disc 7 – Friday Afternoon – Raining On The Moon
with Leena Conquest, Eri Yamamoto
(Montreal, QC, Suoni Per Il Popolo Festival, June 9, 2012)

1. 3 + 3 = Jackie McLean (William Parker) feat. William Parker’s Raining on the Moon 13:31

2. My Name Is Peace (William Parker) feat. William Parker’s Raining on the Moon 13:38

3. Late Man of This Planet (William Parker) feat. William Parker’s Raining on the Moon 9:02

4. For Abbey Lincoln (William Parker) feat. William Parker’s Raining on the Moon 16:07

5. Boom Boom Bang Bang (William Parker) feat. William Parker’s Raining on the Moon 14:40

6. Sweet Breeze (William Parker) feat. William Parker’s Raining on the Moon 5:05

Disc 8 – Kalaparusha On The Edge Of The Horizon – In Order To Survive
with Cooper-Moore (NYC, Vision Festival, June 12, 2012)

1. Aquixo Waiting at Dark Corridor (William Parker) feat. In Order to Survive 9:00

2. Falling Promise (William Parker) feat. In Order to Survive 9:30

3. Slipping into the Light (William Parker) feat. In Order to Survive 6:40

4. Shadows Arms Waving (William Parker) feat. In Order to Survive 15:06

5. Theme for Rondo Hattan (William Parker) feat. In Order to Survive 16:49

6. Prayer-Improv (William Parker) feat. In Order to Survive 5:52

7. Great Spirit (William Parker) feat. In Order to Survive 6:44


William Parker Quartet: William Parker: bass+, compositions (all CDs)
Hamid Drake: drums (all CDs)
Rob Brown: alto sax (all CDs)
Lewis Barnes: trumpet (all CDs)

Billy Bang: violin (CD5)
Bobby Bradford: cornet (CD5)
James Spaulding: alto sax (CD5)
AMR Ensemble (CD6)
Massimo Pinca: bass
Aina Rakotobe: baritone sax
Ernie Odoom: voice
Ludovic Lagana: trumpet
Philippe Ehinger: bass clarinet
Maurice Magnoni: soprano sax
Manu Gesseney: alto sax
Stéphane Métraux: tenor sax
Eri Yamamoto: piano (CD7)
Leena Conquest: vocals (CD7)
Cooper-Moore: piano (CD8)

Produced by William Parker and Steven Joerg
Mixed & Mastered by Petr Cancura (except CD6 Mixed by Blaise Favre for RTS)


Hallelujah for beautifully produced objets d’art in the virtual age—particularly when they’re devoted to living artists and not just bygone icons. The eight-CD box set encapsulates the protean spirit of William Parker—bassist, composer-poet and leader of multiple bands on the New York scene. Totaling some nine hours of multitrack concert recordings, the set attests to the 61-yearold Parker’s ability to invoke both “the history and the mystery,” as he describes the living art of jazz. The Bronx native played extensively in groups led by Cecil Taylor and David S. Ware, but he has grown increasingly prolific as a leader over the past decade-and-a-half. A majority of Parker’s compositions in this box are making their debut on record, with some rivaling his previous best. His music breathes the air of Ornette Coleman and Curtis Mayfield, Beat-era Marrakech and the Caribbean; it’s free-jazz and medina wails, soul grooves and psychedelic lyricism. This set has at its core the William Parker Quartet, founded in 2000 and featuring alto saxophonist Rob Brown, trumpeter Lewis Barnes and drummer Hamid Drake. Wood Flute Songs includes two double-disc live documents of the band—one recorded at Yoshi’s in Oakland in 2006, the other the next year in Houston at DiverseWorks. Both shows brim with ensemble invention, the instruments entwining as second nature. One of today’s most underrated altoists, Brown is the group’s prime mover of emotional energy, particularly at full cry. Barnes’ horn glints with silvery incisiveness, while Drake is a drummer of heavy-hitting physicality, all roiling polyrhythms and African accents. If not as lithe as some, Parker’s bass playing throbs with sinewy phrasing and old-wood tone, driving the band through the strength of his imagination. Highlights from the quartet’s Oakland concert include a fantastical 43-minute sequence of “Alphaville/Daughter’s Joy/Golden Bell.” From the Houston gig, there’s a great version of the tunerich swinger “O’Neal’s Porch,” plus “Red Desert”— where Parker makes like a tripping muezzin as he plays a gralla, an archaic double-reed instrument that here evokes Naked Lunch as much as The Sheltering Sky. Augmented by shamanistic pianist Cooper-Moore, the Parker quartet morphs into the latest incarnation of his quintet, In Order To Survive. The band’s powerhouse show at the 2012 Vision Festival in New York was captured for this box. Parker calls Cooper-Moore as a player “full of the blues and African funk,” and that description suits the band as a whole, with an admixture of noir lament on “Theme For Rondo Hattan.” Another Parker band expanded from the core quartet is Raining On The Moon, which adds pianist Eri Yamamoto and deep-soul vocalist Leena Conquest. This set’s 2012 live recording of all-new material from Montreal starts with “3+3 = Jackie McLean,” a sublime folk-jazz homage not only to the titular alto hero but to Sidney Bechet, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Zora Neale Hurston and the legacy of Harlem. When Conquest delivers such lines as “bring him his horn, let him blow strong” in her proud, clear, golden-hued voice, she taps a bottomless well of feeling. “For Abbey Lincoln” and the nostalgic “Sweet Breeze” are further stunners, with Parker’s melodies fit to charm snakes. In addition to the limited-edition box, this set’s concerts are available as individual downloads. Hardcore avant-improv fans will be drawn to the album showcasing a one-off septet with Parker’s quartet joined by violinist Billy Bang, cornetist Bobby Bradford and alto-sax vet James Spaulding, taped at the Vision Festival in 2009. Bang brought his “Alabama magic,” as Parker puts it, to an untamed take on “Wood Flute Song,” the bassist’s singing, dancing tribute to Don Cherry. The box’s remaining disc documents a 2011 concert at Switzerland’s AMR Festival where the quartet became the Creation Ensemble when enlarged by four saxophones, second trumpet, bass clarinet, additional double-bass and voice. The arrangements are exciting, even if vocalist Ernie Odoom’s rough expressivity won’t be for everyone. That show’s heart is “Psalm For Billy Bang,” written for the mortally ill fiddler, who passed just five days after the concert.

Bradley Bambarger (DownBeat)