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William Parker and Raining on the Moon - Corn Meal Dance

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Artist: William Parker and Raining on the Moon

Album: Corn Meal Dance

Label: AUM Fidelity

Review date: Sep. 26, 2007

In accordance with its 10th anniversary, AUM Fidelity has released William Parker’s latest Raining on the Moon project. There have been a few changes made by the quartet since 2002’s eponymous release, but repeated spins reveal these to be largely for the good.

Gone are the skittering breakbeats that permeated that album. Parker, Hamid Drake, Lewis Barnes and Rob Brown are now more firmly in “jazz” territory, as attested by Corn Meal Dance’s many “freer” moments. These opportunities for the group to stretch out prove uniformly successful, the dialogue and interplay of all sorts bringing many mood and textural changes to the program.

These flights of interaction prove extremely important, as the song structures often tend toward sameness. Clearly, the group was after an aesthetic, and they achieved it; however, I would posit that Parker’s blues-and-roots poetry might have come across more successfully had their frames been structured to veer away from an all-encompassing groove. In the case of a track like “Land Song,” the net effect is one of overexposure or cliché, as lines about dehumanization, property alienation and exploitation are supported by fairly monochromatic riffs and beats. Given the beautifully polymodal explorations that opened the track, such a reversion, or regression, seems all the more disappointing.

The musicianship, however, is first rate. Lena Conquest’s vocals are beyond reproach, her voice gorgeous, her delivery smart, penetrating and potent. Just listen to the heartbreaking “Poem for June Jordan,” a duet between Conquest and pianist Eri Yamamoto. The latter is a fine addition to the group, adding lush and suggestive chords to the stark rhythms and raw horns.

As usual with AUM Fidelity productions, the recording is beautiful, clear and detailed. If the collective could bring some of the bold experimentation to its structures, we might very well get a neigh perfect Raining on the Moon disc. My criticisms aside, I’ll still gladly revel in the fine music-making and still all-important social commentaries offered up on this pointedly pithy release.

By Marc Medwin

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