Preview: William Parker Trio at Festival Hall

The words legend, genius, touchstone and innovator can be heavy weights for a musician to carry. When three men who have been anointed with these superlatives perform together, it’s probably time to reinforce the stage.
The Festival Hall stage is going to need that for the William Parker Trio. Parker – one of the most acclaimed bassists of his generation – is joined by drummer Hamid Drake, considered one of America’s greatest living jazz drummers, and pianist Dave Burrell, a recognizable name from the 115+ albums he has appeared on over 30 years.
It’s no hyperbole to say the list of artists each has collaborated with is a compendium of recent 20th century jazz masters – Don Cherry, Herbie Hancock, Pharoah Sanders, Billy Martin (of Medeski Martin and Wood), Bill Laswell, Ken Vandermark…and many more.
Parker’s inventive playing drives the trio, but Drake and Burrell aren’t freeloaders. Drake has brought his dynamic and imaginative percussion to traditional groups, Hungarian jazz musicians and New York City beat boxers, and is highly regarded for his mastery of a several African instruments. NPR tapped Burrell to help memorialize jazz greats Louis Armstrong and Cannonball Adderley, and the Village Voice’s Francis Davis writes “Burrell crams a century of jazz history into every chugging stride episode and churning dissonance. Encyclopedic as well as eccentric, he’s a living treasure.” The same publication includes him in their list of Ten Free Jazz Albums To Hear Before You Die.
To say the trio pushes outside the milquetoast music sometimes associated with modern jazz is an understatement. Imaginative and challenging while remaining true to their roots, Parker leads the group into creative territory that occasionally teeters on the edge of cacophony but never falls apart. Parker’s intellectual side – he’s a sought after instructor and author of several books – is balanced by emotional expression.
Combined, Drake, Burrell and Parker make the terms “free jazz,”  “improvised” and “challenging” an invitation. The opportunity to be welcomed into their musical world in this intimate venue is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The William Parker Trio play Festival Hall on April 13. Doors at 7, show at 8. $32 in adv, $35 at the door.

– Derek McEwan

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