The Griots Speak: William Parker, bass, Juma Sultan, djembe, percussion; Daniel Carter, reeds, trumpet; Charlie Apicella, madal drum. Wistariahurst Museum, 238 Cabot St., Holyoke, MA. Single tickets ($15) available at www.jazzshares.org or at the door.
The Griots Speak has roots which reach to the dawn of the improvised music community which sprang to life in 1960s New York City. Trail blazing percussionist Juma Sultan formed the quartet to help celebrate of the life and work of Studio We founder James DuBois, a patriarch of the loft scene. The band’s music is poetry in motion–simultaneously fluid, extroverted, light, confrontational, meditative, and comforting.
It was in New York that Juma Sultan forged the relationships that would cement his role in the world of music. He met Ali K. Abuwi with whom he co-formed the still active, free-form musical collective Aboriginal Music Society. His career in jazz was flourishing, as he was finding work on the Double Bass, percussion, and various woodwinds. Some of the musicians with whom he collaborated during this period include Albert Ayler, Pharaoh Sanders, Sonny Sharrock, Archie Shepp, James “Blood” Ullmer, Dave Burell, Barry Altshul and Sam Rivers.
It was in Woodstock in 1968 where Juma Sultan renewed his acquaintance with Jimi Hendrix. Their long-time collaboration is documented on numerous Jimi Hendrix recordings, on the Dick Cavett television show, and other public appearances. Perhaps most famously, Juma Sultan was part of the Gypsy Sun and Rainbows band that backed Jimi Hendrix at the Woodstock festival.
Over the ensuing years, Juma Sultan has not stopped creating, having produced concerts, managed artists, and continuing to perform and record. He released “Father of Origin,” a box set of recordings from the Loft days as well as a cornucopia of content including a booklet of information and Juma’s ‘protest’ letter for the Newport Jazz Festival programming. He also released “Whispers from the Archive,” a double-album of music from his Aboriginal Music Society collective.
Born 1952 Bronx, New York, William Parker is a musician, composer, writer, and educator. He studied bass with Richard Davis, Art Davis, Milt Hinton, Jimmy Garrison, and Wilber Ware.
He has recorded 40 albums as a leader featuring his music and concepts, covering a wide range of ensembles from solo bass, quartets, sextets, the 17 piece Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, and has composed music for The Wroclaw Symphony Orchestra, and hundreds of pieces of vocal music.
He has toured and recorded with Cecil Taylor, Milford Graves, Don Cherry, Bill Dixon, Peter Brotzmann, Derek Bailey, John Zorn, Rashied Ali, Charles Gayle, Sonny Murray, Jemeel Moondoc, Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Enrico Rava, Grachan Moncur III The Art Ensemble Of Chicago. He has also worked with poets Amiri Baraka, Allen Ginsburg, Miguel Pinero, and Anne Waldman. Written music many dance productions collaborating with Choreographer Patricia Nicholson. Parker has developed a reputation as a connector and hub of information concerning the history of creative music. He has had seven books covering philosophy, poetry, and the history of creative music and improvisation. In 2021 he released a 10 cd Box set, The Music of William Parker “Migration Of Silence Into And Out Of The Tone World” on Centering Music. Duke University Press published his bio “Universal Tonality,” written by Cisco Bradley.
Daniel Carter, born in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, in 1945, is a musician and writer. Since coming to New York City in 1970 he has sought out musicians and situations that encourage free expression. In the 1950s he sang in so-called doo-wop groups, took clarinet lessons, played in school bands (into the 60s), and the 49th Army Band (ca. 1967-69). When he first came to NYC, he played in soul bands as well as so-called avant-garde jazz groups.
Carter has recorded and performed with many distinguished musicians, including William Parker, Federico Ughi, DJ Logic, The Negatones, Thurston Moore, Yo La Tengo, Soul-Junk, Anne Waldman, Cooper-Moore, Matthew Shipp and scientist/musician Matthew Putman among others. He is a member of the cooperative free jazz groups Test, Other Dimensions In Music, odon, Ghost Moth and Dissipated Face.
Some of his writing can be found in: The Tinker: Innovative Arts and Literature Magazine, 50 Miles of Elbow Room, Number One (2000), Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters, Dyed-in-the-Wool (2000), Intervalsss: The Poems and Words of Musicians (2000), Sex Sells Magazine (1997), Wandering Archive One (1998).
Charlie Apicella was voted onto the 84th and 86th DownBeat Readers Poll for Guitar.
He studied composition and improvisation with musical titans Yusef Lateef and Pat Martino and was trained as a historian by Archie Shepp and Dr. Billy Taylor. As a young guitarist he met his idol BB King, who offered him advice and shared some stories.
He has performed concerts and recorded with jazz legends Dave Holland, Sonny Fortune, John Blake, Jr., and Avery Sharpe as well as contemporary masters Joe Magnarelli, Vic Juris, Dave Stryker, Don Braden, and Jon Herington of Steely Dan.
Charlie Apicella is Director of Music Curriculum for The Blues and Beyond. He is an Eastman Guitars Featured Artist, a Guild Guitars Sponsored Artist and a ZT Amplifiers Official Artist.