I had the privilege of standing in line behind William Parker about five years ago at Mississippi Studios. I still regret not buying him that cup of tea. He is, without a doubt, without peer as a composer, bass player, activist, and human being whose time is long overdue. This masterful portrait is a must-read for anyone interested in creative music and the idea of art as a force for social change. Recommended By Fletcher O., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Since ascending onto the world stage in the 1990s as one of the premier bassists and composers of his generation, William Parker has perpetually toured around the world and released over forty albums as a leader. He is one of the most influential jazz artists alive today. In Universal Tonality historian and critic Cisco Bradley tells the story of Parker’s life and music. Drawing on interviews with Parker and his collaborators, Bradley traces Parker’s ancestral roots in West Africa via the Carolinas to his childhood in the South Bronx, and illustrates his rise from the 1970s jazz lofts and extended work with pianist Cecil Taylor to the present day. He outlines how Parker’s early influences — Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, and writers of the Black Arts Movement — grounded Parker’s 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.
"A timely and dynamic picture of the great artist’s travels, to date. Bradley’s book charts a past that also provides many clues and contextual narratives that tell us much about where Parker may be heading." Lee Rice Epstein, Free Jazz Collective
"Cisco Bradley endeavors to pull the diverse parts of the artist's life together in this first ever biography of Parker. It is a monumental task, and like the dozens of biographies of Louis Armstrong that have been published, it is a good start." Mark Corroto, All About Jazz
“Writing elegantly about the music as well as William Parker's work as an activist and organizer, Cisco Bradley gives a full sense of Parker's centrality to the development and maintenance of the free jazz scene in New York as well as his efforts in presenting the music across the globe. Universal Tonality is a book worthy of its object.” Fred Moten, author of Black and Blur
About the Author
Prof. Cisco Bradley of the Pratt Institute is a cultural historian and critic, and author of Universal Tonality, a biography of bassist William Parker.