Transcendental cacophony was the focus of bassist William Parker and his scaled-down ensemble, In Order to Survive, Saturday night at the D.C. Jewish Community Center.
The five lengthy compositions that made up the evening's program tended to ebb and flow at a glacial pace as Rob Brown's taut alto saxophone steadily grew more bitter and bewildered during the songs' climaxes.
Parker's rumbling bass lines provided the glue between Brown's soaring melodies and multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore's percus- sion. Often sounding like Charlie Haden's, Parker's nervy rhythms were at once playful and menacing. On the opening "Red Lantern," he underpinned Brown's simple melodic statement with an equally simple five-note bass figure that led into a blur of notes and percussive effects. His most persuasive statements were made during his bowing on the evocative "Poet Tears."
Cooper-Moore's amazing dexterity afforded him the evening's MVP award. With only three drumheads, a small cymbal, brushes and xylophone mallets he effectively conjured the pulsing rhythms of a standard trap set. Only on the solo piece "Barrio," where he played a homemade harp, did Cooper-Moore approach novelty; on the conventional instrument it probably would have sounded very New Age.
There were moments of tedium, especially during Brown's extended high-register improvisations, but the beauty of Parker's compositions was inspiring.