Universal Tonality

The Life and Music of William Parker

Universal Tonality

Book Pages: 400 Illustrations: 47 illustrations Published: February 2021

Author: Cisco Bradley

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs, Music

From appearing on over 150 albums and playing with jazz icons such as Cecil Taylor to leading numerous bands and performing annually at the Vision Festival in New York, bassist and composer William Parker has been a monumental figure in free jazz for fifty years. In Universal Tonality historian and jazz critic Cisco Bradley tells the story of Parker's life and music. Drawing on interviews with Parker and his collaborators, family, and friends, Bradley traces Parker's ancestors' roots in West Africa and the Carolinas through to his childhood in the South Bronx, and illustrates his rise from the 1970s jazz lofts to the present day. He outlines how Parker's early influences—Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, and Albert Ayler as well as writers of the Black Arts Movement—grounded his aesthetic and musical practice in a commitment to community and the struggle for justice and freedom. Throughout, Bradley foregrounds Parker's understanding of music, the role of the artist, and the relationship between art, politics, and social transformation. Intimate and capacious, Universal Tonality is the definitive work on Parker's life and music.


“Writing elegantly about the music as well as William Parker's work as an activist and organizer, Cisco Bradley gives a full sense of Parker's centrality to the development and maintenance of the free jazz scene in New York as well as his efforts in presenting the music across the globe. Universal Tonality is a book worthy of its object.” — Fred Moten, author of Black and Blur


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Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Cisco Bradley is Associate Professor of History at the Pratt Institute, editor of the Jazz Right Now blog, and author of Forging Islamic Power and Place: The Legacy of Shaykh Da’ud bin ‘Abd Allah al-Fatani in Mecca and Southeast Asia.

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Table of Contents Forthcoming
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-1119-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-1014-2