William Parker Quartet Sound Unity

Bass master William Parker’s close-knit group takes full advantage of the presence of attentive audiences at Vancouver’s East Cultural Centre and Montreal’s La Sala Rossa by stretching out on the leader’s six tunes with genuine commitment, energy and engagement. Rock-toned altoist Rob Brown takes some adventurous paths, while wearing his love for Eric Dolphy on his sleeve and managing not to sound merely derivative — his outing on "Wood Flute Song” being especially potent. Two pieces involve collective improv in the New Orleans spirit, and trumpeter Lewis Barnes spars with Brown, not to outdo his partner, but to levitate the group with his clear sound and precise chops making his own contributions seem effortlessly incisive. And what hasn’t already been said about the human rhythmic breeder reactor, Hamid Drake? His indefatigable creativity is the big beating heart of the quartet, and together with Parker, Drake is one half of perhaps the strongest rhythm section in outside jazz. One caveat, though, is Parker’s tunes; with the exception of "Wood Flute,” they are just adequate, neither particularly inventive nor melodically profound. That said, Sound Unity provides listeners with a document of this quartet stretching their wings in full flight, not watching a recording studio clock. (Aum Fidelity)