In Order To Survive - Live / Shapeshifter

Label: AUM Fidelity, 2019

Personnel - Rob Brown: alto saxophone; Cooper-Moore: piano; William Parker: bass; Hamid Drake: drums.


For decades that bassist William Parker plays a major role in the free/avant-garde scene. In Order to Survive is a finely honed project he has spearheaded since 1993, pairing powerfully written material and free improvisation with noble ideas of justice, democracy, and equality. Their latest work consists of a double album recorded live in performance at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn, New York. It is no more exciting than any of their studio records, but it doesn’t disappoint either, offering an engaging musical dynamism that entraps us.

Disc one accommodates an extended five-part suite titled Eternal is the Voice of Love, which, according to its author, is dedicated to the creative spirit called Peace. The first movement, “Entrance To the Tone World”, is set in motion with the bass turned loose and deep percussion with occasional cymbal glitter, while pianist Cooper-Moore and altoist Rob Brown react to each other’s moves. Then, drummer Hamid Drake serves up a thumping rhythm as the bass throbs. The same bass that, moments later, morphs into a swinging flow to welcoming the agile sweeps and striding leaps of Cooper-Moore, whose lines can be as fast as a cyclonic wind. He channels a great part of his energy to the improvs, but also brings all that rooted jazz and blues-based ideas that are part of his process. As Brown returns to the center, Parker lurches into half-unfasten and half-swinging bass lines, transitioning to Part II: “Color Against Autumn Sky”, in a seamless way. Here, you’ll find solid-body, foot-tapping grooves exposed to some pounding rhythmic accelerations.

Part III: “If There Is a Chance”, an inspiring reflective trip melodically led by shakuhachi (a Japanese bamboo flute expertly played by Parker), binds the magical and the surreal with an unfettered spontaneous posture. After the quite busy Part IV: “A Situation”, which provides wide-open terrain for Brown to explore and traverse with his timbral prowess, Part V: “Birth of the Sunset” reestablishes the quiet deliberations. Terse arco bass slashes, pensive pianism, and simple hi-hat conduction offer a more intimate view of the band’s flexibility.

Comprising five inexorable pulse-punting numbers, disc two boasts the playful “Demons Lining The Hails of Justice” as a true demonstration of energy, resilience, and resistance, with “Newark” being a bouncy, brainy exercise. The latter starts grooving in six but sticks to a sort of linear marching step in its final section. It’s dedicated to trombonist Grachan Moncur III, an original member of this group.

The remaining tunes are “Drum and Bass Interlude”, in which Parker and Drake show their deft abilities to handle deep grooves and rhythms, “In Order To Survive”, the bluesy and cyclic hymn where Parker sings ‘in order to survive, you gotta keep hope alive’, and “Eternity”, a piece of spiritual acceptance.

Grade  B

Grade B

Favorite Tracks:
03 (disc1) - Eternal is the Voice of Love III: If There is a Chance ► 01 (disc2) - Demons Lining The Hails of Justice ► 03 (disc2) - Newark