William Parker was born and raised in the Bronx, and has resided in the Lower East Side since 1975. He has studied bass with Richard Davis, Art Davis, Milt Hinton, Wilber Ware, and Jimmy Garrison. Parker has been a key figure in the NY creative jazz scene. Renowned as a composer, improviser, and a bassist, Parker is also an educator and author. During Parker’s prolific career, he has recorded over 150 albums, had countless celebrated stage appearances, and helped shaped the jazz scene for both his peers and the youth. He is the recipient of awards including ‘musician of the year’ in 2007 in Italy.
In 2013, Parker received the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, recognizing Parker’s influence and impact on the creative jazz scene over the last 40 years.William Parker entered the music scene in 1971, playing at Studio We, Studio Rivbea, Hilly’s on The Bowery, the Salt and Pepper club and The Baby Grand, and quickly became a sought after bass player in the New York music scene. He has played with many musicians from the avant-garde such as, Bill Dixon, Sunny Murray, Charles Tyler, Billy Higgins, Charles Brackeen, Alan Silva, Frank Wright, Frank Lowe, Rashid Ali, Donald Ayler, Sonny Simmons, Jeanne Lee, Gunter Hampel, Karl Berger Dave Burrell, Don Cherry, Cecil Taylor, Jimmy Lyons, Milford Graves and with traditionalists like Walter Bishop, Sr. and Maxine Sullivan.
William’s early collaborations with the dancer and choreographer Patricia Nicholson created a large repertoire of composed music for ensembles ranging from solo works to big band projects. Parker played in the Cecil Taylor Unit from 1980 through 1991. He has also performed with musicians from the AACM such as Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, Ernest Dawkins, and The Art Ensemble of Chicago.
In addition to his work with artists in the United Stated, William Parker has developed a strong relationship with musicians in the European Improvised Music scene such as Peter Kowald, Peter Brotzmann, Han Bennink, Tony Oxley, Derek Bailey, Franz Hautzinger, Tomasz Stanko, John Tchicai , Louis Sclavis, Conny Bauer, Hannes Bauer, and Louis Moholo.
In 1994 William began leading his own bands, In Order To Survive, and The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. 2001 marked a turn toward a more universal sound by working with drummer Hamid Drake on O’Neal’s Porch. The Raining on the Moon Quintet followed, with addition of vocalist Leena Conquest to the O’Neals Porch quartet. Most notable among many recent projects is the Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield.
William has taught at Bennington College, NYU, The New England Conservatory of Music, Cal Arts, New School and The Rotterdam Conservatory of Music. He has also taught music workshops in cities throughout the world including Paris, Berlin and Tokyo and the Lower East Side of New York.
Parker is also a theorist and author of several books including the Sound Journal (centeringmusic), Document Humanum (centeringmusic) , Music and the Shadow People (centeringmusic) and The Mayor of Punkville (centeringmusic).
Steve Greenlee of the Boston Globe stated in July 2002, “William Parker has emerged as the most important leader of the current avant-garde scene in jazz.” He is working in many of the more important groups in this genre, some of the most prestigious being his own, i.e. The Curtis Mayfield Project, Little Huey Creative Orchestra, In Order to Survive, William Parker’s Quartet and other groups. Mr. Parker is one of the most important composers in our time period, he is also a poet whose words are beginning to be heard in various media: in print, in song and in his theatre piece, “Music and the Shadow People.”s/performances for young people that he has conducted, both in the USA and in Europe. This has been for him amongst some of his most important work and greatest successes.”
In ‘95 the Village Voice characterized William Parker as “the most consistently brilliant free jazz bassist of all time.”
Mr. Parker has released over 20 albums under his leadership. In 1995 after years of obscurity as a leader, he released Flowers Grow In My Room, on the Centering label. This was the first documentation of the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. This CD hit #1 on the CMJ charts and The Little Huey began to tour. They have performed in the Verona Jazz Festival and Banlieues Bleues among others. William Parker’s new Quartet has hit with rave reviews for both albums “O’Neals Porch” and “Raining on the Moon.”
These releases and their success highlight William Parker as an outstanding composer and bandleader. From the beginning of his musical career, William Parker has been prolific, composing music all of the music for his projects. His compositional skills span a range including operas, oratorios, ballets, film scores, and soliloquies for solo instruments. He has also successfully explored diverse concepts in instrumentation for large and small ensembles.
William Parker is a poet, with three volumes published thus far: “Music Is,” “Document Humanum,” and “The Shadow People.”
“He (William Parker) is something of a father figure” stated Larry Blumenfeld in a New York Times article. He has looked for and encouraged young talent and has been a mentor to many young musicians.
Fellowships, Prizes, Grants, Honors, Residencies