If you think paring down rock and prog into apposite sub-genres-within-genres is a mare’s nest, try subdividing World and New Age, especially the latter. Let me know when you give it a go, I still have lots of Prozac and Xanax from the vacation I had in a sanitarium after Donald Dukktrumpe was elected Head White House Corruption Officer. I’m willing to share – the drugs, that is, not The Donald…you can have him whole cloth. I say this because Mariah Parker, who hales from the spectacularly talented Ancient Future ensemble has issued Live in Concert, and it’s a fest of World and jazz (see the label name, y’all) that resides full-bore in neither category. So, besides those two slots, is it fusion? (yes), is it progressive (oh yes), does it wax neoclassical? (it does), do elements of madrigal cleverly transmogrified instrumentally reside in accessible depths? (they do)…and is there more beyond all that? There is. So where do I place the disc?
Parker mans the piano (and santur) and recruited impressive cohorts, first in the person of one of my all-time favorite horn players, Paul McCandless (Oregon). Matt Montfort from Ancient Future shows up on guitar, with Ian Dogole – also from A.F. – on percussion flanked by Brian Rice, a cat who sits in with numerous high brow ensembles. Kash Kallion wields the bass (Fred Randolph taking over on 2 cuts) and sports a highly impressive pedigree as well, having played with John Zorn, Butch Morris, Sun Ra, B.B. King, and other giants. Duru Demetrius (congas) and Debopriyo Sarkar (tabla) sit in on a couple of cuts, and, from all that, one can well guess the magnitude of sonorities presented in this carefully recorded venture (engineered by Montfort, an all-hands wizard). The small tour was documented from Yoshi’s in Oakland, Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, the Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley, and TRI studios in San Rafael.
Parker deftly waltzes between a number of styles, but what I hear most in her playing is a heavy infuence from the Brubeck era, though the compositions, all hers, are very much in the Oregon vein – though not as “mannered classicalist” as that estimable group tended, however. Her work contains far more light and modernity well interwoven with knowing modalities from days of yore. If we were to present the oeuvres of the two, Parker and Oregon, we’d note a distinct yang and yin respectively. Parker also infuses her comps, as the band’s title implies, with a good deal more south of the border spice and rhythm than Oregon ever did.
Now, you may ask, why a lurking schism away from citing the Indo-Latin Jazz as conterminous with Ancient Future? The answer is simple: Ancient Future is one of the Mahavishnu Orchestras of the music world while Parker would fit right into the Zoho label, which is just as magnitudinous but minus the mind-blowing, whirlwind, high-flown scherzos liberally woven into A.F. (which, remember, is her home as well). Let me put it this way: recall the differences between Shadowfax’s unbelievable debut LP and then the later releases, very very hip but without the progrock element. That sorta analogs the contrasts…except, of course, for McCandless’ always jaw-dropping solos.
My favorite cut is the 9:28 closer, “Milo’s Moment”, which kicks off in an underlying beat so infectious I almost had to call the CDC, Parker comping in tandem with the percussives, opening them up into an extra dimension. McCandless establishes the melody, she picks it up right after him, and then Montfort sails in for righteous soloing. Everything about the track is latinate…but with that distinctive difference with which Parker imbues her work. And, yo, if you can keep from getting up and dancing on this piece, write and let me know how ya managed it. I was out of my seat and doing the Critic Lambada before I knew it. ‘Ere long, the neighbors, glomming the tunes from my mighty stereo system, hopped the fences on all sides, and we had a conga line going up and down the block. If only I’d thought to grab that fifth of tequila my girlfriend bought me as everyone trilled out gritos and hungering for las comidas especiale!
Mark S. Tucker is a writer, editor, graphic artist, Commercial Jetliner Systems Analyst (747), martial arts quasi-trainer, paralegal, and holistic medicine interne-practitioner, among myriad other pursuits. He’s been published nationally in i/e, Progression, Expose, Sound Choice, E/I (founding co-editor), OPtion, Signal to Noise, Camera Obscura, and other magazines. On the Net, he intermittently critiques music and conducts musician interviews for Perfect Sound Forever and reviews CDs for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange (FAME) and The Buzz About. As well as being a decade-long past member of Rowrbrazzle, a cartoonists / animators / writers society, he was also published at OpEdNews.com – a sickness, granted, but he’s now better, though his 116 articles there were destroyed by the publisher, Rightie-in-hiding Rob Kall. Nonetheless, thousands of his articles and reviews have appeared over the last two decades, often formulated to piss someone off……….you, perhaps?