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Universal Tonality

Universal Tonality

The Life and Music of William Parker

by Cisco Bradley

Published by: Duke University Press Books

400 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 mm, 47 illustrations

  • ISBN: 9781478011194
  • Published: February 2021


From appearing on over 150 albums and playing with jazz icons such as Cecil Taylor to leading numerous bands and performing annually at the Vision Festival in New York, bassist and composer William Parker has been a monumental figure in free jazz for fifty years. In Universal Tonality historian and jazz critic Cisco Bradley tells the story of Parker's life and music. Drawing on interviews with Parker and his collaborators, family, and friends, Bradley traces Parker's ancestors' roots in West Africa and the Carolinas through to his childhood in the South Bronx, and illustrates his rise from the 1970s jazz lofts to the present day. He outlines how Parker's early influences—Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Albert Ayler as well as writers of the Black Arts Movement—grounded his aesthetic and musical practice in a commitment to community and the struggle for justice and freedom. Throughout, Bradley foregrounds Parker's understanding of music, the role of the artist, and the relationship between art, politics, and social transformation. Intimate and capacious, Universal Tonality is the definitive work on Parker's life and music.