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ALBUM Reviews

August 18, 1996|Bill Kohlhaase

LEON PARKER

"Belief"

Columbia

* * *

Less is more on drummer Parker's new album. Known for his minimalist kit and style, he utilizes an equally spare, concentrated sense of composition that emphasizes rhythm over harmony. Simple themes, and choruses of as few as two or three notes, are decorated with bells, a variety of frame drums, the wiry buzz of the berimbau and Parker's snare, bass and cymbal. His originals bubble along with a childlike innocence while the music of others (Duke Ellington, Jacky Terrasson) is stripped to its bare-boned beauty.

The most complex pieces here, including "Calling Out," intertwine percussion instruments and wordless vocals in simple riffs that suggest nursery rhymes. The simplest match Parker's brushes on snare with bass and a single horn. On the title tune, the interplay between Parker and trumpeter Tom Harrell is reminiscent of the earthy sound Ed Blackwell and Don Cherry developed in the band Old and New Dreams. Some may find the music here too thin and simplistic. But its beauty lies in that very simplicity.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), to four stars (excellent).

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