This episode features the extended interviews conducted for Billy Bang and William Parker’s 1991 RTV episodes.
Performance date: 12/13/1991
Episode release date: 05/21/2010
Host: Phoebe Legere
Produced by Jim Staley
The renowned violinist, composer, and improvisor Billy Bang was born in Mobile, Alabama, grew up in the South Bronx, and studied with the brilliant composer-performer Leroy Jenkins. In the 1970’s he formed The Survival Ensemble, and later co-founded The String Trio Of New York. Bang has performed and collaborated with such remarkable musicians as Sam Rivers, Frank Lowe, Sun Ra, Don Cherry, Marilyn Crispell and James Blood Ulmer. His enthralling performance on this Roulette TV video opens with the wistfully plaintive blues melody, “Daydreams”. Bang extends the opening emotional atmosphere through an astonishing variety of techniques that elicit dramatic and forward-propelling images before returning to the beginning mood. A wonderfully lyric ballad with allusions to play and work songs follows. Dedicated to Bang’s friend Dennis Charles who went by the nickname Jazz, this composition is appropriately entitled “One for Jazz”. Included in the piece is a poem that was his friend’s favorite, authored and spoken here by Bang. The third and last selection is a firey, non-stop cadenza at presto-tempo, “Untitled”. Afterwards in his interview, Bang speaks of searching and exploring the components of “Daydreams” and of being “magnetically pulled” into new aspects of the piece. He recalls the combination of Jazz and the European spirit in the AACM, and illuminates the “loft jazz” years in New York, emphasizing the creative persons involved and the development of more open ways of playing.
Characterized by the Village Voice as “the most consistently brilliant free bassist of all time”, William Parker has been in demand as a performer with such notable avant-jazz musicians as Ed Blackwell, Don Cherry, Bill Dixon, Milford Graves, Billy Higgins, Sunny Murray, and Cecil Taylor. Parker is also a prolific composer who has written in a wide range of forms including opera (eg. “A Thousand Cranes” for orchestra, dance, and a 1000 school children performed at the opening of the UN Special Session on Disarmament in June, 1982), oratorio, ballet (eg. “Light Slices My Heart” for voices and small ensemble with Aztec poetry), film scores, various works for large and small instrumental ensembles, and soliloquies for solo instruments. Parker has published three volumes of poetry, and wrote the emotionally gripping text for “When You Smile, The big Orange Mountain Cries”, a work performed on this videotape by Parker (on wind instruments and percussion as well as bass) with his current large ensemble the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. The piece courses through subtle and rich timbres, captivating solos and intricate counterpoint, most of which arises spontaneously to support the deeply felt vocals of Leena Conquest. In his interview, Parker discusses the term “creative music” as signifying that kind of performance, in whatever style, where the music “procreates” or takes on a life of its own. His describes his piece, dedicated to the inspirational sharecropper Fannie Lou Haymer who in the 1960’s struggled to register voters in Mississippi (where she was assaulted by reactionary police), a dedication which he further extends to anyone struggling to be this or her own person.