Dopolarians “The Bond”

Gospel blessings welcome you instantly into the open arms of Dopolarians’ spiritual beacon, The Bond. On this magical recording, the sextet of William Parker, Brian Blade, Kelley Hurt, Chad Fowler, Christopher Parker, and Marc Franklin set the stage, get comfortable and then rip the roof off in a bountiful exorcism of free-flowing expression rife with emotion and catharsis. The Bond is an absolute force.

William Parker and Brian Blade put down a maze-like, solid-as-bedrock foundation throughout the magnificent title track. It’s important to note that Blade comes in on drums because founding drummer (and the group’s spiritual inspiration) Alvin Fielder passed away shortly after they finished their stellar debut, Garden Party. But Blade was part of Christopher Parker and Kelley Hurt’s excellent No Tears Suite (Franklin and Fowler as well) and he slides into Dopolarians seamlessly while bringing his own sense and style to things. There’s a tightness in the grooves, even when chaos roars to the front, and when Fowler sets off on a scorching sax solo and hands off to Franklin to tear it up some more, Blade and W. Parker hold it all down. 

Where things really take a heavy turn is in the middle section when the rhythm slows to a near stop and Hurt croons wordlessly, letting the emotion escape like sparks ready to start a fire. Parker’s bass follows her trail, with the horns throwing quiet waves of encouragement from a distance. It’s spellbinding and utterly transportive. Once the full band kicks back into gear, the weight is shorn and it’s time to ascend straight toward the sun.

The Bond never stops. It’s a full-scale blitz from beginning to end. The 30-minute album centerpiece, “The Emergence,” twists similar elements into entirely new shapes. Parker walks his bass lines up and down mountains, once again dancing with Hurt’s infectious vocals. Crescendos of piano and trumpet cascade across Blade’s soulful rhythms, exploding into a cacophonous sea of awakening straight into the open arms of “The Release.”

Considering the influence Fielder had on the sound of Dopolarians, his loss will always be missed, but The Bond keeps his spirit singing and the group couldn’t have brought in a better drummer to understand and push that spirit forward. The Bond is magic. This group has talent and experience dripping from their pores and it comes together in such a cohesive, cleansing, and joyous way. As the final notes ride Parker’s bowed bass down the stream and into the sunset, I am thankful and my heart is full. 

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