Half Notes: William Parker Organ Quartet – Uncle Joe's Spirit House (2010)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Around the same time William Parker released the culmination of an epic Curtis Mayfield project that spanned live performances over seven years, Parker quietly released a decidedly more personal and discreet affair, Uncle Joe’s Spirit House. Dedicated to his 92-year-old uncle Joe and his wife of 65 years, Aunt Carrie, the music that Parker chose for honoring his aunt and uncle opens up yet another facet of his wide-ranging artistry: organ-based soul-jazz. This is soul-jazz done Parker’s way, though, which means Cooper-Moore’s organ leaves the bass pedals unused, because Parker is handling that chore on his standup bass. The organ itself sounds more antiquated and “churchy” than the kind you’d hear Jimmy Smith play. Darryl Foster’s sax is a lot closer in spirit to Lester Young than Stanley Turrentine. And lastly, Gerald Cleaver’s drums has a lighter touch and more shadings than a straight funk drummer might do in an organ combo. Toss in Parker’s nine compositions with his signature avant garde flair and you have a soul-jazz record that’s like no other soul-jazz record. It’s not just a “quiet” record, it’s a quiet triumph. And, dare I say, Parker’s best album overall this year.

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