FREE SPIRITS, a new quintet led by pianist TERI PARKER, features some of Canada’s top young musicians — ALLISON AU (saxophone), REBECCA HENNESSY (trumpet), TERI PARKER (piano), LAUREN FALLS (bass), and SARAH THAWER (drums). The group was formed in the Spring of 2019 to celebrate the music of Geri Allen (1957-2017) and Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981). Parker, a longtime fan of both musicians, first put the project together for a multi-night residency at Toronto’s Rex Jazz & Blues Bar, to an overwhelmingly positive response.
In one sense, Free Spirits is about looking back and paying tribute to Allen and Williams, two pianists whose intertwined musical legacies deserve greater appreciation and attention. In another sense, Free Spirits is about looking forward, and honouring the tradition of daring innovation in which Allen and Williams worked. With brand-new arrangements from Parker, Free Spirits plays with intensity and ingenuity, breathing new life into decades-old music and showcasing their own considerable improvisatory gifts.
With Parker at the helm, Free Spirits hits multiple marks. It is educational, guiding audiences through the work of two historically important women musicians. It is inspirational, showing burgeoning young artists the power and possibilities of creative, improvised music. And finally, Free Spirits is exciting, with a thrilling live show that is just as exhilarating to the casual listener as it is to the most ardent student of Williams and Allen.