My first real exposure to William Parker's music came through preparing a radio feature on the Suoni per il popolo festival years ago. Parker has been a recurring figure throughout Suoni's ten-year history, appearing with many groups and even conducting a master class a couple of years ago. It was only fitting that he, long-time rhythmic partner Hamid Drake and legendary Louisiana tenor Kidd Jordan would return to Suoni for this milestone year. In the wake of Fred Anderson's illness and Bill Dixon's passing, it seems all the more important to have finally witnessed Kidd Jordan.
Both sets were continuous, with fragments of various tunes creeping in and out of the improvisations. In the first set, Parker and Drake were very clearly driving the bus, with Jordan riding over them. Opening with unison punches on a major 9th that launched into a fast swing, Jordan exhibited his full-bodied sound across the entire range of his horn. Ideas from all three performers were dovetailing with each other, Drake fluidly moving from groove to groove - hints of backbeat led to a Latin-ish groove duet between him and Parker. An eerie combination of Parker's bowed bass with Jordan's plaintive altissimo register dissolved into a 6/8 feel. After quoting Coltrane's "Pursuance," Jordan got so overheated he exclaimed "Hallelujah!" and left Parker and Drake alone while he cooled himself off with his towel. The set ended with an interpolation of "Nature Boy."
The second set was more of an egalitarian triologue, Jordan digging into the rhythm section and solo spots opened up for each member. The powerful hook-up between Parker and Drake was still present in abundance. Coltrane quotes - this time "Cousin Mary" - were prevalent from Jordan. Drake became a one-man batucada for a minute while Jordan and Parker played a descending D minor scale. "Wade in the Water" appeared over Drake's patented rubbery reggae feel. The ending was awkwardly humourous, continuing past the point of its intended conclusion into a series of extended attempts to end it. The strange ending did nothing to detract from the preceding two hours of inspirational music. It was clear from both body language and musical interaction how much respect the three musicians had for each other, and how much fun they were having.