William Parker (musician)

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William Parker
Photo by Frank Schindelbeck
Background information
Born (1952-01-10) January 10, 1952 (age 62)
New York City, New York, USA
Origin New York City
Genres Jazz
Occupations Musician, composer, poet, festival organizer
Instruments Double bass
Years active 1970s–present
Photo by Andy Newcombe

William Parker (born January 10, 1952) is an American free jazz double bassist, multi-instrumentalist, poet and composer.


Parker was born Bronx, New York City. He was not formally trained as a classical player, though he did study with Jimmy Garrison, Richard Davis, and Wilbur Ware and learned the tradition. Parker is one of few jazz bassists who regularly plays arco. He also plays several other instruments from around the world, including the West African kora.

While Parker has been active since the early 1970s; he has had a higher public profile since the early 1990s. He is a prominent and influential musician in the New York City experimental jazz scene,[1] and has regularly appeared at music festivals around the world, including the Guelph Jazz Festival, in southern Ontario.

Parker first came to public attention with pianist Cecil Taylor. He has long been a member of saxophonist David S. Ware's quartet and in Peter Brötzmann' s groups.

He is a member of the cooperative Other Dimensions In Music. Together with his wife organizes the annual Vision Festival in New York City.

The album Sound Unity by the William Parker Quartet was chosen as one of Amazon.com's Top 100 Editor's Picks of 2005. His August 2008 CD Double Sunrise over Neptune was listed as one of the top 10 2008 (through end of August) Jazz CD's at Amazon.[2] Also released in 2008, Petit Oiseau was chosen as one of the best jazz disks of 2008 by The Wall Street Journal,[3] the BBC's Radio Three,[4] The Village Voice,[5] and PopMatters.[6]

In 2006, Parker was awarded the Resounding Vision Award from Nameless Sound. In March 2007, William Parker's book, Who Owns Music?, was published by buddy's knife jazzedition in Cologne, Germany. Who Owns Music? assembles his political thoughts, poems, and musicological essays. In June 2011, Parker's second book, Conversations, a collection of interviews with notable free jazz musicians and forward thinkers, mainly from the African-American community, was published by Rogue Art.[7]


As leader[edit]

  • Through Acceptance of the Mystery Peace (Centering, 1981)
  • Flowers Grow in My Room (Centering, 1994)
  • In Order to Survive (Black Saint, 1995)
  • Testimony (Zero In, 1995)
  • Compassion Seizes Bed-Stuy (Homestead, 1996)
  • Sunrise in the Tone World (AUM Fidelity, 1997)
  • Lifting the Sanctions (No More, 1997)
  • Zen Mountains/Zen Streets: A Duet For Poet & Improvised Bass (Boxholder, 1998)
  • Peach Orchard (AUM Fidelity, 1998)
  • Posium Pendasem (FMP, 1999)
  • O'Neal's Porch (AUM Fidelity, 2000)
  • Mayor of Punkville (AUM Fidelity, 2000)
  • Painter's Spring (Thirsty Ear, 2000)
  • Song Cycle (Boxholder, 2001)
  • Piercing the Veil (AUM Fidelity, 2001)
  • Bob's Pink Cadillac (Eremite, 2002)
  • Raincoat in the River (Eremite, 2002)
  • ... and William Danced (Ayler Records, 2002)
  • Raining on the Moon (Thirsty Ear, 2002)
  • Eloping with the Sun (Riti, 2003)
  • Scrapbook (Thirsty Ear, 2003)
  • Fractured Dimensions (FMP, 2003)
  • Spontaneous (Splasc(H), 2003)
  • Mass for the Healing of the World (Black Saint, 2004)
  • Luc's Lantern (Thirsty Ear, 2005)
  • Sound Unity (AUM Fidelity, 2005)
  • Long Hidden: The Olmec Series (AUM Fidelity, 2006)
  • For Percy Heath (Victo, 2006)
  • Alphaville Suite (RogueArt, 2007)
  • The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield (Rai Trade, 2007)
  • Volume 2: Summer Snow with Hamid Drake (AUM Fidelity, 2007)
  • Corn Meal Dance (AUM Fidelity, 2007)
  • Double Sunrise Over Neptune (Aum Fidelity/Arts for Art, 2007)
  • Petit Oiseau (AUM Fidelity, 2008)
  • Beyond Quantum with Anthony Braxton and Milford Graves (Tzadik, 2008)
  • I Plan to Stay a Believer: The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield (AUM Fidelity, 2010)
  • Uncle Joe's Spirit House (Centering, 2010)
  • Essence of Ellington / Live in Milano (AUM Fidelity, 2012)
  • Centering. Unreleased Early Recordings 1976-1987 (No Business, 2012)
  • Live In Wroclove (ForTune, 2013)
  • Wood Flute Songs: Anthology/Live 2006-2012 (Aum Fidelity, 2013)

As sideman[edit]

With Derek Bailey and John Zorn

With Billy Bang

With Charles Gayle

With Wayne Horvitz

With Jimmy Lyons

With Michael Marcus (musician)

  • Under The Wire (Enja, 1990)

With Roscoe Mitchell

With Cecil Taylor

With Alan Glover

  • Kings Of Infinite Space (Omolade Music 2006)
  • The Juice Quartet Archives (Omolade Music 2010)

With David S Ware

With Rob Brown

With Charles Gayle

  • Touchin' on Trane (FMP, 1991)

With Matthew Shipp

With Albert Beger

  • Evolving Silence, Vol. 1 (2005)
  • Evolving Silence, Vol. 2 (2006)

With Roy Campbell, Joe McPhee & Warren Smith

With Thollem McDonas & Nels Cline



  • 2001 - Inside Out in the Open (2001). Directed by Alan Roth. Asymmetric Pictures. Distributed by Third World Newsreel.


  1. ^ Blumenfeld, Larry (2002-05-26). "Music; A Father to the Followers of Free Jazz". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-05. "Mr. Parker and his wife, the dancer Patricia Nicholson, began the [Vision Festival] seven years ago. Yet his influence runs much deeper than the recording studio or the bandstand. He is something of a father figure, dispensing life lessons as well as wisdom about musical technique." 
  2. ^ "Best Jazz of 2008". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  3. ^ Blumenfeld, Larry (2008-12-27). "The Best Musicians Span Continents, Generations, by Larry Blumenfeld". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  4. ^ "Jazz on 3, Best Albums of the Year". Bbc.co.uk. 2008-12-22. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  5. ^ Francis Davis (2008-12-31). "2008 ''Voice'' Jazz Poll Winners". Villagevoice.com. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  6. ^ Layman, Will. "The Best Jazz of 2008, by Will Layman". Popmatters.com. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  7. ^ "William Parker Conversations". Retrieved 25 January 2012. 

External links[edit]