The William Parker Sessionography

By Iannapollo, Robert | ARSC Journal, Fall 2014 | Go to article overview

The William Parker Sessionography


Iannapollo, Robert, ARSC Journal


The William Parker Sessionography. By Rick Lopez. New York: Centering Publishing, 2014. 468pp. Photographs, Illustrations, Chronology. Alphabetical listing of official releases. Sessionography key. ISBN # 978-0-9661053-1-6; $50

I suspect if you walked up to a random crowd at a random jazz festival anywhere in the U.S. and asked them if they knew who William Parker was, you would get mostly blank stares. So why devote a 468-page sessionography to him? Because bassist Parker, who emerged in the early 1970s in New York City, has become among the most important multi-instrumentalists/composers/arrangers/organizers/mentors/authors in jazz since around 1980. He is a musician with an open aesthetic and that has allowed him to collaborate with many players, from mainstream musicians to members of the European avant-garde (e.g., Peter Brotzmann and Han Bennink) and those classified as "world" musicians. His instrumental talents were noted early on. His first recording session was with saxophonist Frank Lowe in 1973: Black Beings, one of the last of the original ESP Disks. He was a mover in the loft scene of the 1970s and everyone seemed to want Parker in their band. He eventually was picked as the bass player in Cecil Taylor's Unit (a demanding role, to be sure) and worked with him throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

At the same time, he organized concerts. Most notably he was the co-organizer (along with German bassist Peter Kowald) of the 1984 Sound Unity Festival, a legendary event in New York that brought together some of the most forward looking players in improvised music (including Don Cherry, John Zorn, and Brotzmann). This ultimately led to the organization of the Vision Festival, an annual festival that began in 1996 and that is still going strong 18 years later. Parker is a tireless musician who has not only built an impressive CV for himself but also been a major contributor to jazz over the last four decades in so many ways.

With all of Parker's activity in so many areas, this sessionography (a discography that includes not only recordings but also airchecks, live recordings, and listings of live dates that were not recorded) becomes essentially a history of the various permutations of post-Coltrane/Coleman jazz for the past forty years. As such, it is an extremely valuable document. There is a lot of information to absorb in this weighty tome and there are numerous cross- and sub-references to keep the reader absorbed for hours. Parker first played in Cecil Taylor's Unit in 1980 and was a regular member for the next 12 years, so one has a comprehensive discography of Taylor's Unit for those years. …

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