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.
- October 27th, 8:00PM EST: Cisco Bradley will speak about his work on Universal Tonality with The Bronx Music Heritage Center as part of the Center’s virtual series, Music By the Book; link forthcoming
- Full book launch with William Parker through Duke University Press
- Duke University
- Black Mountain College
- Fordham University
- New York University
- Towson University
- McNeese State University.
Praise for Universal Tonality
“We have precious few monographic works on creative musicians, fewer still on living ones, and none quite like Cisco Bradley’s fascinating biography of bassist, bandleader, organizer, and composer William Parker. Bradley situates Parker as part of a historical legacy, skillfully illuminating Parker’s career—including his crucial term with Cecil Taylor—as well as the entire underground scene, including the groundbreaking Sound Unity Festival, the enduring Vision Festival, and manifold developments in the New York creative music community. An essential entry in the critical culture reading list.” — John Corbett, author of Vinyl Freak: Love Letters to a Dying Medium
“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