The 2015 Jazz Fest is still a few weeks off and we can only hope that we’ll see and hear something as good as the William Parker quartet at the Bop Shop tonight. They had just played in the relatively nearby cities, Pittsburg, Erie, Detroit and Toronto, and were returning to New York via Rochester. Their performance in the store was rather like musical chairs, the drummer, Federico Ughi, excluded. Daniel Carter played three saxes, clarinet, flute, trumpet and piano. Watson Jennison played piano, soprano sax, flute and recorder. He is a painter as well. And Parker played a rather small upright bass, tuba, a deep wooden flute and another small horn. Now close your eyes and imagine them playing all those instruments in one hour-long song.
When they came up for air William Parker told a long joke about guy named Skippy who knew everybody, Robert DiNiro, President Obama and the pope. The joke, as he told it, had no real punchline but it sure cleared the air. From there they played a beautiful folk-like melody. Danial Carter played clarinet, Watson a recorder, the drummer played the toms with mallets and Parker played a large wooden flute and sang these lyrics.
“Death has died today
God is in here
And the devil wears a big ol’ grin”