First Communion + Piercing The Veil: volume 1 complete (AUM039/40)

"A sumptuous double CD package .. together the two discs make for a powerful cross-section of the immense talents of these two musicians .. although the Afro-Asian character of the music is much to the fore, the performance still retains the improvisatory and evolutionary tenet of jazz with even the shortest pieces going through a sweeping narrative arc replete with impressive dynamics. Piercing The Veil is also very close to Jamaican dub. That comes more from the hypnosis and sensuality of the playing than any rhythmic rigidity or echo chamber antics but the parallel is clear enough. At the end of the day this music remains a tremendously freewheeling affair, with the virtuosity of the players carrying them from ostinato to rubato in the blink of any eye. Drake and Parker are a two-man big band with big sound and big ideas, a vision of the joyous, emotive waters that flow from the confluence of African-American, African, Middle eastern and Asian musical rivers." - Kevin Le Gendre

4/5 (excellent) Music
4/5 (excellent) Sonics
"Widely regarded as the exemplar free-jazz rhythm section, the duo first transformed itself into a rhythm-and-ritual orchestra on 2001's Piercing the Veil, recorded in 2000 and now reissued as a double CD with a live set, First Communion, recorded two days earlier. And that's where they really began distancing themselves from the legendary tandems of the past. Although the pair's bass-and-traps duets are among the most intense and creative in the long illustrious history of jazz rhythm sections, it's Parker and Drake's uncanny conversational alchemy on the "alternative instruments" that puts them in a world of their own. Those tracks have the feel of sacred ceremonies, ranging from quietly contemplative to ferociously ecstatic. Superbly realistic and undoctored sound recording makes the listener an intimate audience member for the live performance, with distinct separation of instruments set slightly back and to the sides of the soundstage." - Derk Richardson

"6 weeks in Canadian Jazz Radio Top 10; peaking at #2"

"If there's a groove that bassist WILLIAM PARKER and drummer HAMID DRAKE can't make their own, I haven't heard it, and they're equally masterful in the free fall of meterless total improvisation." - Bill Meyer

"This is no moonlighting rhythm section, but two philosopher-dancers plumbing the varieties of rhythmic experience together. ..The meeting lives up to its promise and more, as Parker and Drake chase each other like two inseparable kids through the innermost catacombs of musical creativity." - Lawrence Cosentino

When the applause finally comes up, you know you’ve had a rare experience. First Communion is a spontaneously creative and intimate epic. - Jeff Stockton

A well-done overview of all three WP/HD albums by Will Layman


Reviews of 'Piercing The Veil' on its original 2001 issue:

"The first track alone sounds like a summation of the entire history of the bass and drums in jazz. From this rip-roaring start the music moves on to display the sort of eclectic jazz-meets-world music aesthetic that has become common jazz parlance, but it's rarely done with such class and integrity as here. A remarkable and distinctive disc and - good news - this is only volume one!"
–Philip Clark

"Full of the dread which dub derived from Africa - right into your living room. Wild." –Ben Watson

"Not since Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell joined forces have two musicians so organically wedded world-music influences with free jazz. The resultant music is connected to history and culture yet true to its contemporary American roots. And the rhythms groove so deeply that if dance-club DJs got hold of this CD, all America would be moving to it." –Ed Hazell

"William Parker and Hamid Drake are the best rhythm section in jazz right now. Piercing The Veil's opening cut, "Black Cherry," is pure dance music--the pair never lose the groove, but they crank it up and out, heading to a place where ecstasy supercedes intellect. Other cuts on the disc feature Parker on Middle Eastern, African and Asian instruments, while Drake plays frame drum and tablas to trance-inducing effect. It's a fascinating exploration of multiple sound worlds." –Phil Freeman

"A common myth says that holy men must speak in tongues. Take a quick tour [through the world of William Parker & Hamid Drake], and you'll learn that these two high priests of free improvisation can rock 'n' roll with the best of 'em. ... they come together to create sounds, images, and ideas that transcend time and place." –Nils Jacobson

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"William Parker and Hamid Drake pretty much redefine the notion of a powerhouse free jazz rhythm section. They lay down a funk-fueled and abstract dialogue in even the most 'out' groups, contributing bass and drums in ensembles with monster players like Fred Anderson and Peter Brotzmann. Here, on "Piercing the Veil", Parker and Drake go it as a duo, exploring the outer reaches of what a drummer and bassist can do together. At times the two are just downright funky, hitting interstellar grooves that spill out in a joyous explosion of powerful sound. They also dig into a more primitive musical language here, when Parker picks up the dumbek or shakuhachi, their beautiful reed/percussion duets cover a similar territory to the legendary "MU" sessions recorded by Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell. Displaying a full spectrum of sound, "Piercing the Veil" is a magical recording of two of the most soulful and spiritual voices in avant-garde jazz. This album is nothing short of essential." –Phil Waldorf

"Two mofos, one groove. Parker's known for his avant variability and soul on upright bass, but he can also lock into killer beats - on bass, wooden flute, double reeds, or a pile o' perc. Chicago drummer Drake could make anybody sound good; here he just relaxed and jammed. Must've been a blast." –Greg Burk


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