The program consisted of four numbers, all Parker's compositions/conceptions/inspirations. Each piece had a story behind it, which fact is so instinctually Parker. Each piece was dedicated to someone, either alive or in heaven, in Parker's life, much like the entire orchestra is named for Huey Newton, a poet who lived in the projects in the Bronx. Each piece granted every member of the orchestra of which there were seventeen ( including 2 guest performers, the cellist and the vocalist, and Parker himself) an indispensable role in the molding of the sounds stemming from large penetrating embracing pulsations to the tender tones that accompanied the singing of a poem about angels in the night . There was no solo in the performance that was not introduced by the orchestra and afterwards resolved in a transition into another tempo or instrumentation. The intensity of the music never waned, characteristic of the serious intentions that Parker has to convey the idea that within every musician is the seed of an individual sound, an individual poet, and individual flower that grows.
The rhythm section of the orchestra did not necessarily include Parker at the bass( he also intermittently accented the entire orchestral sound from an array of percussion instruments that included a small xylophone, a similar instrument made of wood that had a Caribbean timbre, a squeeze drum, small reed horns and bells). Although Parker began the performance playing his bass, most of the time the baritone sax, tuba, and two drumsets carried the beat and often magnified it to the point where it penetrated my body. The first piece, RAINCOAT IN THE RIVER, was the most formally constructed; it had a distinctly designed overture and then proceeded in ways that, although improvised, were meant to happen. The image of a flowing river emanated from the instruments. The pulse dominated inescapably every second of the work. It contained sections that were agitated and contrastingly mellifluous. Its conclusion was the only one it could have: delicate, tender, floating, out of sight, out of sound in a sub-tone. The second work, was an exquisitely brief song, AWASH IN THE MIDST OF AN ANGEL'S TEARS. The third work, BLUE FEET FLOWER SONG, brought Native American culture to musical terms. Parker conducted with a tom-tom under his left arm and eventually articulated a string instrument that resembled a guitar but had the deep tones of a bass violin. By the end of the piece the orchestra had developed a theme that imitated the progressively faster, louder beats of an oncoming train. All the orchestra members obviously were having a good time; they were smiling and grooving and delighting in trumpeter Rodriguez's lead. The final piece, WHEN YOU SMILE THE BIG ORANGE MOUNTAIN CRIES, manifested the complete coherence of the orchestra. The rhythm was the thing. The rhythm kept everything going even though the sounds might have been in and out of tune, harmonic or dissonant, the rhythm held everything together. Daryl Foster played a powerful solo on soprano sax. He pointed the horn's bell towards the sky, away from the undertones of the all the brass.
The experience of the orchestra patently revealed the balance created among the three trumpets, the three trombones and the three saxes. They held forth beautifully as one unit, then as three individual units within the one, and then as nine individual players within each unit. The way in which the latter balance was struck addressed the balance with which Parker conceives of his music as a whole. His life is so totally dedicated to THE music that it is an understatement to even make this statement.
In the first half of the concert, Parker introduced every single member of the orchestra and for each one, had something endearing and complimentary to say. Parker knew how long he was going on about his group and made the comment out loud, but he did not stop. It was a sign that he believed in and felt strongly about what the orchestra is doing, what each member can contribute and how steadfastly committed he is to nurturing his musical garden.