In this context, Parker’s group, Painter’s Winter, played at the Amherst Unitarian Meetinghouse on December 2, 2006. The players in the group were longtime partners William Parker, Sabir Mateen, and Daniel Carter. The painter was Lois Eby.
Two large pieces of white paper held a spot in the backdrop for the three musicians. Parker, who, at first, sat on a stool in the center, blew a deep tone on the shakuhatchi as if he were in the distance and calling out. Carter, to the left, blew similarly to Parker’s bamboo flute, with a metal flute. Mateen, to the right, projected another voice with his small high-pitched wooden flute. Parker’s vibratos arched upward as Carter coincided with long tones and runs and Mateen fluttered with bright animal-like sounds. The painter brushed black in a curvy line on the white paper. In the first part, the music constantly ebbed and flowed. Each musician determined the narrowness or the breadth with which the music branched out or recoiled into rhythm or syncopation.
For the next part, Parker stood to lift his bass off its side. Carter moved between high and low notes then tremolo-ed into blues. Mateen adhered to runs on another small flute. Parker placed his bow on the bass strings and drew out a long low tone. The two flutists paralleled each other and the bass sound kept coming. The painter changed the color she used to red. The bass grounded Carter’s melodies and Mateen’s dance-like trails of notes. On a muted trumpet Carter drew out notes, which became phrases and couplets. Parker began to pluck the bass strings slowly garnering the most out of every note. The painter was using blue with her brush. Mateen blew bright figures on his metal flute. The resonance on the bass became increasingly larger. Carter and Mateen pursued one musical vagary after another. Parker exercised fast fingering which bolted into a rhythmic phase.
Carter changed to clarinet, Mateen, bass clarinet. They filled the space with tuneful and arpeggiated fluidity and vibratos as Parker plucked and snapped mid-range tones from the bass. The painter kept all her strokes isolated as if she intended that no marks meet on the surface she worked. After letting out squeals with their horns, Carter and Mateen settled into a beat that Parker laid out with his walking fingers. The painter washed sections of her paintings with yellow and green. Then she stopped painting and sat on the edge of the stage to watch the band in front of her. Carter and Mateen pulled out their saxophones. Carter, tenor, Mateen alto. The music was swinging synchronistically. And the two horn players exhibited their passion. Carter in his tremolos struck a harmony with Mateen’s short phrases. Parker barely tugged at the bass strings. Even though Carter rocked with the pitches his horn rang out, his playing had remarkably soft edges. Mateen sang arpeggio after arpeggio with sexy tuneful runs in between. Now sitting, Parker was repeating phrases on the tuba. Carter and Mateen stretched the capacities of their horns. The painter dotted sections of her paintings with ink. There was a decrescendo and the musicians stopped playing.
The second half of the performance began just as the first had started with Parker blowing a yearning call from one of his many bamboo flutes. When he switched to playing drum rolls on the snare, Carter had his trumpet and Mateen a wooden flute. The music was liquid. The painter reassessed her paintings and placed color where she thought it was needed. Parker began blowing a clarinet shaped flute. Carter and Mateen were both playing clarinets. The painter filled the empty areas of the paper with some last ink markings.
Carter on tenor balanced Mateen and Parker on flutes. The music was beautifully lyrical and bucolic. Carter played Debussy-like lines. Parker eventually went back to his bass. The transformation of the music was endless. Carter and Mateen moved to shrill extremes with their instruments. The bass lured them to calming down. The amount of aural information layered itself repeatedly. The detail of the music was lost to its larger focus which was to wash the audience in visions for the ear.
The way the music persisted offered a dynamic that was unchartable. The musicians changed instruments just as the painter would change the color she applied with her brush. All four performers simply gravitated to where they wanted to go, mindfully rather than impulsively. The painter never imitated the process of the music. The music unfolded naturally, like the rain falls or the wind blows, unfettered and thorough, as if no other way for unfolding existed.
Writing about these musicians and the painter requires the same kind of attention mixed with abandon that they use to create their art. After the concert concluded in a whisper of bowing and blowing, Parker proclaimed: Creation is an unstoppable force, no matter in what form it comes.
And when the musicians no longer were making music and the painter was no longer painting, creation had not stopped, it had only paused.