William Parker Quartet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

William Parker Quartet 

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William Parker is one of the greatest bassists ever to play free jazz, but a lifetime in the avant-garde hasn't dimmed his opinion of the giants of the mainstream. As a child he pretended his toy pistol was a horn so he could jam along with Paul Gonsalves's legendary 27-chorus solo on Ellington at Newport, and 2006's For Percy Heath (Victo), the latest effort by his big band, the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, is dedicated to the Modern Jazz Quartet's longtime bass player. His quartet, which includes Lewis Barnes on trumpet, Rob Brown on altosax, and Hamid Drake on drums, reconciles his outside and inside impulses. The bright, sturdy melody that introduces "Purple," the first tune on their debut, O'Neal's Porch, could have come from a Lee Morgan record, and "Wood Flute Song," from the 2005 follow-up Sound Unity (a third album, already recorded, is due out on Aum Fidelity in the fall), echoes the gloriously ragged unison lines Ornette Coleman and Don Cherry played on those marvelous old Atlantic LPs. But the horn men, especially Brown, depart from time-tested forms with their pungent, unpredictable solos, and Parker and Drake shift mercurially between Indian, North African, and Jamaican rhythmic elements--all the players tend to the roots, in other words, but they're glad to branch out. a 7:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12.

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