«Garden Party» documents the last recording session of the great American drummer Alvin Fielder, once a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra and founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), who fell sick shortly afterwards and passed away on January 5, 2019. The Dopolarians sextet brings together three heavyweights champions of the American free jazz and long-time collaborators – Meridian, Mississippi-based Fiedler, New Orleans-based tenor sax player Kidd Jordan and New York-based double bass player William Parker together with pianist Christopher Parker and alto sax and saxello player Chad Fowler (who founded the new label Mahakala Records), both from Arkansas, and vocalist Kelley Hurt from Memphis, Tennessee. This album was recorded at Marigny Studios in New Orleans, Louisiana, in early June 2018.
Apparently, Jordan, too, was not at the top of his game due to health challenges and this session was his first one playing the tenor sax in months. So, «Garden Party» turned out to be an unbalanced but still engaging sextet session that introduces the trio Christopher Parker, Hurt and Fowler, who have played together regularly but had lost touch for almost twenty years, augmented by William Parker, Fiedler and Jordan.
The first piece «C Melody» began spontaneously when Christopher Parker improvised the melodic motif that soon became an ostinato, repeated in different improvised variations throughout the piece. This piece stresses the genius rhythmic touches of Fielder that charges the simple blues melody with tension and depth. Fowler’s emotional love song «Dopolaria» (refers to the bow after the aria in the operas) is inspired by a fragment by Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini, with a beautiful arco solo of William Parker that contrasts the saccharine spirit of this song. Fowler’s «Father Dies; Son Dies» is a tense yet simple meditation on the impermanence and the inevitability of death and can be associated with the title of the label and the concept of Mahākāla, which is translated from Sanskrit as «beyond death».
Hurt’s «Garden Party» continues the melodic vein with an improvised, children’s blues ballad she used to sing «at home when the bunnies come out in their garden behind the house», with a soulful sax solo of Jordan. Fowler’s uplifting «Guilty Happy» refers to the feeling you have when you first notice a moment of happiness during the process of mourning a loved on. Its repetitive motif continues “until you can’t stand it”, and again, highlights the irresistible groove feeling of Fielder, or as William Parker put it immediately after the tape stopped: «you could cash a check with that snare roll, Al!» This session ends with
Christopher Parker’s joyful and loose, free bop «Impromptu», again, composed in the moment at a rehearsal for this session and features the rare and profound understanding of Jordan and Fielder.
Alvin Fielder (perc), Kidd Jordan (ts), William Parker (b), Christopher Parker (p), Kelley Hurt (v), Chad Fowler (as, saxello)