William Parker (musician)

William Parker
Parker performs at Jazzfestival Saalfelden in 2010
Background information
Born (1952-01-10) January 10, 1952 (age 71)
New York City, U.S.
GenresFree Jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, poet
Instrument(s)Double bass
Years active1970s–present
LabelsCentering, 577 Records, AUM Fidelity, Intakt, Tzadik, Thirsty Ear, RogueArt
William Parker, Vision XIII Festival

William Parker (born January 10, 1952) is an American free jazz double bassist. Beginning in the 1980s, Parker played with Cecil Taylor for over a decade, and he has led the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra since 1981. The Village Voice named him "the most consistently brilliant free jazz bassist of all time" and DownBeat has called him "one of the most adventurous and prolific bandleaders in jazz".

Early life and career

Parker was born in the Bronx, New York City, and grew up in the Melrose housing project. His first instrument was the trumpet, followed by the trombone and cello. Parker was not formally trained as a classical player, but in his youth studied with Jimmy Garrison, Richard Davis, and Wilbur Ware in learning the tradition.

While Parker has been active since the early 1970s, he first came to public attention playing with pianist Cecil Taylor in the 1980s. He has performed in many of Peter Brötzmann's groups, and played with saxophonist David S. Ware from 1989 until his last concert performance in 2011. He is a member of the Other Dimensions In Music cooperative. His work as leader came to greater prominence in the 1990s with groups such as the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra and In Order to Survive.

Parker's "breakout" albums were released in the early 2000s, first with the William Parker Quartet (with saxophonist Rob Brown, drummer Hamid Drake, and trumpeter Lewis Barnes): O'Neal's Porch was included in Best of 2001 lists in The New York Times, DownBeat, and the Jazz Journalists Association; in 2002, Raining on the Moon, featuring guest Leena Conquest, received rave reviews in publications including Pitchfork. The album Sound Unity by the William Parker Quartet was chosen as one of Amazon.com's Top 100 Editor's Picks of 2005. Petit Oiseau was chosen as one of the best jazz disks of 2008 by The Wall Street Journal, the BBC's Radio Three, The Village Voice, and PopMatters. Double Sunrise Over Neptune, also released in 2008, was listed as one of the top 10 2008 (through end of August) Jazz CDs at Amazon.

Increasing prominence throughout the 2000s also led to a revisiting of his back catalogue, with the release of a number of early recordings.

Parker is a prominent musician in the New York City experimental jazz scene, where he leads a number of groups and is associated with the Vision Festival, organized by his wife, the dancer Patricia Nicholson; he is also frequently noted for his community dedication, mentorship, and status as "free-jazz caretaker" and "unofficial mayor of the New York improvisational scene".

He has performed at music festivals around the world, including the Guelph Jazz Festival in southern Ontario.

Parker frequently plays arco. Bass has been his primary instrument for the duration of his career, but he also plays trumpet, tuba, bamboo flutes, shakuhachi, flute, double reeds, the West African kora, gembri, and donso ngoni, an instrument first introduced to him by Don Cherry.

In 2006, Parker was awarded the Resounding Vision Award from Nameless Sound. In March 2007, his 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 RogueArt.


As leader

Release year Artist Title Label
1980 William Parker Through Acceptance of the Mystery Peace Centering Records
1994 William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra Flowers Grow in My Room Centering
1995 William Parker In Order to Survive Black Saint
1995 William Parker Testimony Zero In
1996 William Parker / In Order to Survive Compassion Seizes Bed-Stuy Homestead
1997 William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra Sunrise in the Tone World AUM Fidelity
1997 William Parker Lifting the Sanctions No More
1998 William Parker / In Order to Survive The Peach Orchard AUM Fidelity
1999 William Parker / In Order to Survive Posium Pendasem FMP
2000 William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra Mayor of Punkville AUM Fidelity
2000 William Parker Trio Painter's Spring Thirsty Ear
2001 William Parker Quartet O'Neal's Porch AUM Fidelity
2001 William Parker Song Cycle Boxholder
2002 William Parker Quartet featuring Leena Conquest Raining on the Moon Thirsty Ear
2002 William Parker Clarinet Trio Bob's Pink Cadillac Eremite
2002 William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra Raincoat in the River Eremite
2002 William Parker Trio ... and William Danced Ayler Records
2003 William Parker Violin Trio Scrapbook Thirsty Ear
2003 William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra Mass for the Healing of the World Black Saint
2003 William Parker Fractured Dimensions FMP
2003 William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra Spontaneous Splasc(H)
2004 William Parker Luc's Lantern Thirsty Ear
2005 William Parker Quartet Sound Unity AUM Fidelity
2006 William Parker Bass Quartet featuring Charles Gayle Requiem Splasc(H)
2006 William Parker Long Hidden: The Olmec Series AUM Fidelity
2006 William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra For Percy Heath Victo
2007 William Parker Double Quartet Alphaville Suite RogueArt
2007 William Parker / The Inside Songs Of Curtis Mayfield The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield: Live in Rome Rai Trade
2007 William Parker / Raining on the Moon Corn Meal Dance AUM Fidelity
2008 William Parker Double Sunrise Over Neptune AUM Fidelity
2008 William Parker Quartet Petit Oiseau AUM Fidelity
2010 William Parker I Plan to Stay a Believer: The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield AUM Fidelity
2010 William Parker Organ Quartet Uncle Joe's Spirit House Centering
2010 William Parker At Somewhere There Barnyard Records
2011 William Parker Crumbling In The Shadows Is Fraulien Miller's Stale Cake Centering
2011 William Parker & ICI Ensemble Winter Sun Crying NEOS Jazz
2012 William Parker Orchestra Essence of Ellington: Live in Milano Centering
2012 William Parker Centering. Unreleased Early Recordings 1976–1987 NoBusiness
2013 William Parker Quartet Live In Wroclove ForTune
2013 William Parker Wood Flute Songs AUM Fidelity
2015 William Parker For Those Who Are, Still AUM Fidelity
2015 William Parker / Raining on the Moon Great Spirit AUM Fidelity
2016 William Parker ft. Lisa Sokolov and Cooper-Moore Stan's Hat Flapping in the Wind Centering
2017 William Parker Quartets Meditation/Resurrection AUM Fidelity
2018 William Parker Lake Of Light: Compositions For Aquasonics Gotta Let It Out
2018 William Parker Voices Fall From The Sky Centering
2018 William Parker Flower In a Stained-Glass Window -&- The Blinking of The Ear Centering
2019 William Parker / In Order to Survive Live/Shapeshifter AUM Fidelity
2021 William Parker Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World (Volumes 1–10) Centering
2021 William Parker Mayan Space Station AUM Fidelity
2021 William Parker Painters Winter AUM Fidelity
2022 William Parker Universal Tonality Centering

As co-leader

Release year Artist Title Label
1994 Peter Brötzmann / Gregg Bendian / William Parker Sacred Scrape / Secret Response Rastascan
1996 Derek Bailey, John Zorn, William Parker Harras Avant
1996 Rashid Bakr / Frode Gjerstad / William Parker Seeing New York From The Ear Cadence Jazz Records
1999 David Budbill & William Parker Zen Mountains/Zen Streets: A Duet For Poet & Improvised Bass Boxholder
2000 Fred Anderson, Hamid Drake, Kidd Jordan, William Parker 2 Days in April Eremite
2001 William Parker & Hamid Drake Piercing the Veil AUM Fidelity
2002 Peter Brötzmann, William Parker, Michael Wertmüller Nothung In Tone Music
2003 William Parker, Joe Morris, Hamid Drake Eloping with the Sun Riti
2006 Kidd Jordan / Hamid Drake / William Parker Palm of Soul AUM Fidelity
2007 William Parker & Hamid Drake Summer Snow AUM Fidelity
2007 Anders Gahnold, William Parker, & Hamid Drake The Last Dances Ayler Records
2008 Anthony Braxton, Milford Graves, William Parker Beyond Quantum Tzadik
2009 Gerald Cleaver, William Parker, Craig Taborn Farmers by Nature AUM Fidelity
2010 Ninni Morgia & William Parker Prism Ultramarine
2011 Farmers by Nature (Cleaver, Parker, Taborn) Out of This World's Distortions AUM Fidelity
2013 William Parker / Conny Bauer / Hamid Drake Tender Exploration Jazzwerkstatt
2014 Billy Bang & William Parker Medicine Buddha NoBusiness
2014 Farmers by Nature (Cleaver, Parker, Taborn) Love and Ghosts AUM Fidelity
2015 Oliver Lake & William Parker To Roy Intakt
2017 William Parker & Stefano Scodanibbio Bass Duo Centering
2020 Parker, Matthew Shipp, Daniel Carter, Gerald Cleaver Welcome Adventure! Vol. 1 577 Records
2022 Andrew Cyrille, William Parker, and Enrico Rava 2 Blues for Cecil TUM Records
2022 Peter Brötzmann, Milford Graves, and William Parker Historic Music Past Tense Future Black Editions Archive

As sideman

With Fred Anderson

With Billy Bang

With Albert Beger

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

With John Blum (pianist)

  • Astrogeny (Eremite, 2005)

With Peter Brötzmann

With Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet

With the Brötzmann Clarinet Project

With Brötzmann's Die Like A Dog Quartet

With Rob Brown

With Roy Campbell, Joe McPhee & Warren Smith

With Daniel Carter and Federico Ughi

  • LIVE! (577 Records, 2017)
  • Navajo Sunrise (Rudi Records. 2013)
  • The Dream (577 Records, 2006)

With Bill Dixon

With Marco Eneidi

With Charles Gayle

With Frode Gjerstad

  • Remember To Forget (Circulasione Totale, 1998)
  • Ultima (Cadence Jazz Records, 1999)
  • The Other Side (Ayler Records, 2006)
  • On Reade Street (FMR Records, 2008)

With Alan Glover

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

With Wayne Horvitz

With Gianni Lenoci

  • Secret Garden (Silta)

With Frank Lowe

  • Black Beings (ESP-Disk', 1973)
  • The Loweski (ESP-Disk', 2012)

With Jimmy Lyons

With Raphe Malik

With Michael Marcus

  • Under The Wire (Enja, 1990)

With Thollem McDonas & Nels Cline

With the Melodic Art-Tet (Charles Brackeen, Ahmed Abdullah, Parker, Roger Blank, Tony Waters)

With Roscoe Mitchell

With Jemeel Moondoc

With Joe Morris

With Other Dimensions In Music

With Ivo Perelman

With Hugh Ragin

With Matthew Shipp

With Steve Swell

With Cecil Taylor

With David S Ware



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

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