It’s hard to pick a favorite William Parker outfit. Everything he touches is magic, from his giant orchestras to his solo outings. But his quartets might be his ideal venues: There’s enough structure that the music can’t be called free jazz, and there’s enough leeway to let democracy command the performance. Last October, Parker took two quartets into the studio on the same day, and the result—recorded all in one day—is the blissful two-disc set Meditation/Resurrection.
Vessel in Orbit presents the first new group music in over a decade from singular drummer-composer Whit Dickey. It is a richly melodic and deeply focused album; structural integrity and emotional resonance are paramount throughout. Created together with the impeccable improvisers Mat Maneri on viola and pianist Matthew Shipp, each of these men has a lifetime commitment to creative music, and they share a musical relationship with one another that dates back decades. Dickey’s wonderfully inviting compositional structures provide fruitful platforms for his esteemed colleagues and, par for his work as a leader, he cedes the spotlight to the collective as a whole. Wide-open listening and fluid expression abound here.