William Parker was born and raised in the Bronx, and has resided in the Lower East Side since 1975. He has studied bass with Richard Davis, Art Davis, Milt Hinton, Wilber Ware, and Jimmy Garrison. Parker has been a key figure in the NY creative jazz scene. Renowned as a composer, improviser, and a bassist, Parker is also an educator and author. During Parker’s prolific career, he has recorded over 150 albums, had countless celebrated stage appearances, and helped shaped the jazz scene for both his peers and the youth. He is the recipient of awards including ‘musician of the year’ in 2007 in Italy.

In 2013, Parker received the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, recognizing Parker’s influence and impact on the creative jazz scene over the last 40 years.William Parker entered the music scene in 1971, playing at Studio We, Studio Rivbea, Hilly’s on The Bowery, the Salt and Pepper club and The Baby Grand, and quickly became a sought after bass player in the New York music scene. He has played with many musicians from the avant-garde such as, Bill Dixon, Sunny Murray, Charles Tyler, Billy Higgins, Charles Brackeen, Alan Silva, Frank Wright, Frank Lowe, Rashid Ali, Donald Ayler, Sonny Simmons, Jeanne Lee, Gunter Hampel, Karl Berger Dave Burrell, Don Cherry, Cecil Taylor, Jimmy Lyons, Milford Graves and with traditionalists like Walter Bishop, Sr. and Maxine Sullivan.


William’s early collaborations with the dancer and choreographer Patricia Nicholson created a large repertoire of composed music for ensembles ranging from solo works to big band projects.  Parker played in the Cecil Taylor Unit from 1980 through 1991. He has also performed with musicians from the AACM such as Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton, Wadada Leo Smith, Ernest Dawkins, and The Art Ensemble of Chicago.



In addition to his work with artists in the United Stated, William Parker has developed a strong relationship with musicians in the European Improvised Music scene such as Peter Kowald, Peter Brotzmann, Han Bennink, Tony Oxley, Derek Bailey, Franz Hautzinger, Tomasz Stanko, John Tchicai ,  Louis Sclavis, Conny Bauer, Hannes Bauer, and Louis Moholo.

In 1994 William began leading his own bands, In Order To Survive, and The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. 2001 marked a turn toward a more universal sound by working with drummer Hamid Drake on O’Neal’s Porch. The Raining on the Moon Quintet followed, with addition of vocalist Leena Conquest to the O’Neals Porch quartet. Most notable among many recent projects is the Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield.

William has taught at Bennington College, NYU, The New England Conservatory of Music, Cal Arts, New School and The Rotterdam Conservatory of Music. He has also taught music workshops in cities throughout the world including Paris, Berlin and Tokyo and the Lower East Side of New York.

Parker is also a theorist and author of several books including the Sound Journal (centeringmusic), Document Humanum (centeringmusic) , Music and the Shadow People (centeringmusic) and The Mayor of Punkville (centeringmusic).

Steve Greenlee of the Boston Globe stated in July 2002, “William Parker has emerged as the most important leader of the current avant-garde scene in jazz.” He is working in many of the more important groups in this genre, some of the most prestigious being his own, i.e. The Curtis Mayfield Project, Little Huey Creative Orchestra, In Order to Survive, William Parker’s Quartet and other groups. Mr. Parker is one of the most important composers in our time period, he is also a poet whose words are beginning to be heard in various media: in print, in song and in his theatre piece, “Music and the Shadow People.”s/performances for young people that he has conducted, both in the USA and in Europe. This has been for him amongst some of his most important work and greatest successes.”

In ‘95 the Village Voice characterized William Parker as “the most consistently brilliant free jazz bassist of all time.”

Mr. Parker has released over 20 albums under his leadership. In 1995 after years of obscurity as a leader, he released Flowers Grow In My Room, on the Centering label. This was the first documentation of the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. This CD hit #1 on the CMJ charts and The Little Huey began to tour. They have performed in the Verona Jazz Festival and Banlieues Bleues among others. William Parker’s new Quartet has hit with rave reviews for both albums “O’Neals Porch” and “Raining on the Moon.”

These releases and their success highlight William Parker as an outstanding composer and bandleader. From the beginning of his musical career, William Parker has been prolific, composing music all of the music for his projects. His compositional skills span a range including operas, oratorios, ballets, film scores, and soliloquies for solo instruments. He has also successfully explored diverse concepts in instrumentation for large and small ensembles.

William Parker is a poet, with three volumes published thus far: “Music Is,” “Document Humanum,” and “The Shadow People.”

“He (William Parker) is something of a father figure” stated Larry Blumenfeld in a New York Times article. He has looked for and encouraged young talent and has been a mentor to many young musicians.


Fellowships, Prizes, Grants, Honors, Residencies

2013 Doris Duke Artist Award

2007 New York State Music Fund commission of “Double Sunrise Over Neptune,” performed at Vision Festival XII  
2007 Named as one of the “50 Greatest New York Musicians of All Time” in Time Out New York
2007 Residency at Luther College’s “A Sense of Vocation” program in Decorah, Iowa
2006 Nameless Sound Resounding Vision Award, Houston, TX2006 Residency at Hallwalls in Buffalo, NY2005 Jazz Musician of the Year, Musica Jazz (Italian Magazine)2004 Participant in Visiting Artist Program at Haystack in Deer Isle, Maine2003 Other Minds Festival commission of “Spirit Catcher for Four Musicians and Tape,” in San Francisco, CA

2003 Residency at the Djerassi Foundation in Woodside, CA

2002 Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust Commission of “Universal Tonality,”

2000 New York State Council on the Arts Commissioning Award

1991 Residency at Bennington College, Bennington, VT

1991 and 1994 Residency at the Rotterdam Conservatory

1988 New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Artist Fellowshi


Work, Highlights


Duet concert I New York with Charles Gayle, Recording with Thollem Mcdonas Performed excerpts from The Opera “How The World Changed Itself” as part of the Universal Tonality Concept in Paris at the Sons dhiver Festival, Concert in Milano at the Theatre Manzoni with The Essence Of Ellington 15 piece orchestra featuring “Kidd Jordan”. Toured Russia and Siberia with Hamid Drake and Russian musicians including pianist Roman Stolar.


Performed live soundtrack to Film by Sylvain George Courtisane festival Qu’ils reposent en revolte(des figures de Guerre) Composed music for the AMR in Geneva 16 piece ensemble, Played at the font festival tribute to Bill Dixon, toured Europe with Farmers By Nature Craig Taborn, Gerald Cleaver, performed in Brazil with Rob Masurek and Yusef Lateef. Played with Peter Broztmann at the Vision festival. Led the string Orchestra performing the music of Billy Bang at the Vision Festival Guelph Jazz Festival played solo bass concert / Kidd Jordan quartet with Joel Futterman, Al Fielder, Zacatecas Mexico with Dave Burrell and Sabir Mateen. Toured Europe with Amiri Baraka Speech Quartet, recorded string quartet plus saxophone improvisations with Daniel Carter for video “On Being Native “ Toured Vermont with Poet David Budbill, premiered The Essence Of Ellington In Portugal (Guiamares festival)


Performed live soundtrack for Jean Luc Godard’s film Alphaville at Nuovo Cinema Bologna, composed music for the Hocus Pocus Orchestra in Monopoli concerts in Amherst, Philadelphia, Baltimore with Conrad Bauer, and Hamid Drake. Bass solo in Toronto. Other Minds Festival with Kidd Jordan. And Warren Smith. Played with The Art Ensemble Of Chicago in Philadelphia, Tour of wets coast with trumpeter/composer Eddie Gale. Concert at the stone with Jalalu Kalvert Nelson and Ellen Christi, Trio with Evan Parker and Hamid Drake at the magic triangle in Amherst Mass. April premiered ‘The Trance Quartet” with Bill Cole. Steve Baczkowski, and Ravi Padmanabha. Trio concert in Stavanger Norway with Raul Bjorkenheim and Hamid Drake, Trio in Montreal with Fred Anderson /Hamid Drake/ Duet concert with Mark Helias. Tour of Norway with Frode Gjerstad Composed music for 15 piece Bass Choir. Played at the Blue Note with David S. Ware Trio, Duet concert with John Tchicai,


Lectured at political /music conference at the Sons d’hiver Festival Paris, Music/Dance Concert Madrid with Orchestra residency in Milano at the PIM theatre/ concerts with Giuseppe Logan in New York with Joey Baron, Concerts in Saalfelen Austria with William Parker Quartet, Paris concerts at the Sunset Jazz club, New Orleans Jazz Festival with Kidd Jordan, Duo concert with Billy Bang at the Rubin Museum Duo concert with Milford Graves in the Azore Islands.


Moscow with William Parker Quartet, Teatro Manzoni in Milano with the Curtis Mayfield project. Norway with Rashied Ali and Charles Gayle, Toured Europe with Tony Malaby And Nasheet Waits, Performed in Tunisia North Africa with “Raining On The Moon” Duo bass concert in Udine with Stefano Scodanibbio,


Performed at the symphony space on dance /music piece “On Their Shoulders We’re Still Dancing” playing the music of Fats Waller. Duke Ellington choreography by Patricia Nicholson, Played at the Blue Note In Milan with Anthony Braxton and Hamid Drake, The Math Festival with Anthony Braxton and Milford Graves, Residency with poet David Budbill at Luther college in Iowa Toured USA. With the William Parker quartet (Rob Brown, Lewis Barnes Hamid Drake) premiered Muti-media piece at Roulette “Expanded Humanity” with students from Humanity Prep School playing laptops, Poet David Budbill, Perry Robinson clarinet and magic, plus student string ensemble from Connecticut directed by Daniel Levin, also video projection and dance Patricia Nicholson, This was part of the concept called Universal Tonality, European tours with William Parker quartet, including the Pitch Folk Festival Chicago, By Any Means Charles Gayle, Rashied Ali, Matthew Shipp Trio, David S. Ware Quartet, Amiri Baraka,

Duets with Billy Bang, played the New Orleans Jazz Festival with Kidd Jordan, San Jose Jazz Festival with the Eddie Gale All Stars, Concerts with Cecil Taylor in London, Regio Emilia and Bologna (Anthony Braxton, and Tony Oxley) tour Europe with William Parker piano trio Luc’s Lantern Eri Yamamoto/Hamid Drake. Duo concert at the living theatre with Fred Anderson . Premiered string quartet “On Being Native” mixed ensemble piece “Triangles Of Light”


Premiered Lakota Chamber music for wood winds and Light In The Hall of Whispers for string ensemble, Residency in Buffalo at Hall walls performed theatre/Dance/Music Piece “Looking For Cookie Gilchrist “ in collaboration with Patricia Nicholson, Buffalo Puppet group, Duet Performance with Hamid Drake at the Walker Arts Center,

Toured Texas with the William Parker Quartet, Workshops in Hungary, premiered Tutsi Orphans a duet for two-multi instrumentalist at The Bang On a Can Festival,


Played in TeL Aviv with Roy Campbell’s Pyramid Trio, Voted Jazz musician of the year in Italy by Musica Jazz, toured with The William Parker Quartet, and with Raining On The Moon, Residency in Hungary composed music for multiple ensembles. Duet with Joelle Leandre in Le man France, Premiered New Composition For Percy Heath with The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra at the Victoriaville Festival in Canada, also performed in Sardinia. Taught at the New School Music program.


Duet concert with Milford Graves in New York as part of the vision club series, premiered New compositions for the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra at the vision club series Toured East coast of America with Peter Broztmann Trio, residency in Hungary, Curtis Mayfield Project in Rome for the New York is now project, Played with Henry Grimes and Charles Gayle also premiered Bass Quartet featuring Alan Silva, Sirone, Henry Grimes And Charles Gayle at the vision festival. Artist in residence at the Haystack center in Maine. Toured America with Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake.


Toured England with Spring Heel Jack plus Evan Parker, Han Bennick and Matthew Shipp. Burlington Jazz Festival, with Shipp’s string trio. Also performances at the Walker Arts Center, Istanbul Turkey, Bass duet with Alan Silva in Paris, Berlin Jazz festival with D.J. Spooky. Premiering Healing Song music/dance suite performed at Tampere jazz festival Finland and at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston. Residency at the DeJerrassi Foundation in San Francisco.


Received composition grant from Mary Flagler, for new orchestra piece called Universal Tonality, which was performed by a 15-piece ensemble at Roulette. Performed in duet with bassist Peter Kowald at the Victo Music festival in Canada. Little Huey documented a live performance from the Vision festival Film Light Slices my Heart is shown at the Film Anthology Played at the Newport Jazz festival with The David S. Ware Quartet. An interpretation of Music and the Shadow people performed at the Guelph Festival in Canada. Concert with Oliver Lake and Jin Hi Kim performed at the London Jazz festival with Matthew Shipp.


Performed at the Earshot festival in Seattle with Fred Anderson and Hamid Drake. The Blue note in New York with the David S. Ware Quartet. Taught at the Rotterdam Conservatory and toured Holland with the group Intermission and dancers. The little Huey Creative Music Orchestra performed Distillation Of Souls dedicated to the victims of the world trade center tragedy. Also playing with Little Huey in Boston and Amherst College. Premiered the Music of Curtis Mayfield project entitled The Inside songs of Curtis Mayfield. Performed in Sterling Scotland with the O’Neal’s porch quartet.



“Kaleidoscope” commissioned by Arts for Art with funds provided by NYSCA and performed by the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra at the Fifth Annual Vision Festival. The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra also performed as part of the “Interpretations” series at Merkin Hall. Composed a series of pieces, which were performed, by the Swedish Orchestra and Dance in Sweden in collaboration with choreographer Patricia Nicholson.

Conducted workshops at Tu Casa, NYC. Has performed and/or recorded with Matthew Shipp, Hamid Drake, David S. Ware, Peter Brotzmann, Alan Silva, Billy Bang, etc.


The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra performed at Alice Tully Hall, Saturdays throughout the summer at Tonic, in Paris at Banlieu Bleues and in Lyon. In Order to Survive Quartet performed at the Guelph Festival and in Washington D.C. The William Parker Special Quartet performed in Berlin. Performed with Peter Brotzmann’s Die Like a Dog Quartet at Victoriaville. Toured in Japan and Europe with Intermission. Taught music workshops in NYC at Tu Casa.


The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra and Dance performed at Verona. In Order to Survive performed in Nantes. Intermission and Derek Bailey performed in Holland, The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra New Zealand/Auckland. Toured with David Budbill in New England to support duet recording, “Zen Mountain Zen Streets.”


Solo bass concerts, led workshops and played tuba in trio with Eugene Chadbourne in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lotus Gallery, NY – Premiered Cells of Sound = Word. “If Words Could Speak” collaboration with Steven Dalachinsky. Duo tour of United States with Matthew Shipp. Toured Ireland, Spain, Norway and Japan with different groups, including Collective 4Tet, David S. Ware, Frode Gjerstad and Intermission.


Premiered “Mass for the Healing World” at the What is Jazz? Festival for a 10 piece ensemble plus dance. Presented a series of solo bass concerts at different venues in New York and Virginia. Performed with the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra at the Panasonic Festival in New York. Performed with In Order to Survive at the Vision for the Twenty-First Century Festival in New York. Toured Europe and Canada with David S. Ware.


Premiered 10 compositions in an 8-week season with the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra at the Knitting Factory. Performed with John Zorn and Derek Bailey at the Knitting Factory. Concertized in Vancouver, B.C. with Roger Baird and Daniel Carter, reuniting the Music Ensemble of ’75. Taught the spring semester at Bennington College. Performed with Jin Hi Kim and Oliver Lake at Merkin Hall. Taught master classes at the New England Conservatory of Music. Performed at the New Orleans Jazz Festival with Kidd Jordan. Composed music for the dance-drama “The Shadow People.” Toured Europe with Peter Brotzmann, David S. Ware, Werner Ludi. Performed with own group In Order to Survive at Eindhoven Festival, Netherlands.


Founded the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, which performed at the Knitting Factory Jazz Festival, the Cooler, CBGB’s Gallery, and University of the Streets. Led his own quartet, In Order to Survive in concerts in Philadelphia. Led sound spread piece for dance, music, and poetry, called “Floating Tomorrows” for the Improvisers Collective Festival. Co-organized and performed in the Stork Music Festival. Toured Europe and United States with Rashied Ali, Peter Brotzmann, Bill Dixon, Arthur Doyle, Charles Gayle, Milford Graves, Roscoe Mitchell, Sunny Murray, Harold Smith, Carlos Ward and David S. Ware. Artist-in-residence at the Music Conservatory in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Composed new music for Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater, as well as arranging and re-orchestrating music from Dvorak’s opera “Rusalka.” New recordings: “In Order to Survive,” as well as recordings with Roy Campbell, Matthew Shipp, Paul Murphy, Christoph Gallio, Charles Gayle and Sun


Founded sextet In Order to Survive, which performed at Roulette and the Knitting Factory. Featured performer with Muhal Richard Abrams, Billy Bang and Butch Morris. Conducted music workshops at Bennington College and performed concerts and conducted workshops with Roscoe Mitchell at Cal Arts.


Solo bass concerts in Boston and New York. Verona Jazz Festival concert performances with Milford Graves and Charles Gayle. Composed and presented song cycle for solo voice and music for piano and flute, solo piano, and piano and percussion.


Artist-in-residence at Rotterdam, Netherlands and Bennington College, Vermont. Participated in Total Music meeting, Berlin, Germany. Presented Part II, “Fire Cycles” of his composition “The Ghost Garden” with dancer Patricia Nicholson. Composed music for Marcus Dance Theater, “The Generation Table,” performed at PS 122, and for Charles Dennis Dance Troupe. Toured Japan, England, France and Germany with Cecil Taylor’s Feel Trio.


Composed “The Ghost Garden.” Performed Part III, “The Water Cycle,” for strings, tuba and dancer. Toured New England with Cecil Taylor Unit and Estonia with Peter Brotzmann. Guest performer with Essential Music at Greenwich House.



Fellowship granted by New York Foundation for the Arts. Co-organized Second Sound Unity Festival, New York City. Composed series of large ensemble works, called “Orchestral Concepts.” Performed weekly at Neither/ Nor and the Gas Station. Presented composition for large ensemble, with poetry, voice and dance, “Vision on an Ordinary Day” at Cooper Hewitt Museum. Presented William Parker Quartet at the Knitting Factory Jazz Festival. European tours with Cecil Taylor Unit.


Composed and presented at La Mama, “Vision Peace and Battle Cries,” a modern ballet for large orchestra with poetry and voice in collaboration with choreographer Patricia Nicholson. Co-organized Lower East Side Music Festival. Presented workshops with Bill Dixon Quartet at Middlebury College, Vermont. Toured Japan with Billy Bang and Europe with Cecil Taylor.


Premier of opera, “Becki Graybeard.” Composed and presented two major pieces for big band, “Vega” and “Rocket Man.” Composed music for documentary shown on PBS, “Community Dig.” Performed in concert with Cecil Taylor, Jimmy Lyons, Frank Wright and Steve McCall at Afro-American History and Cultural Museum, New York City. Performed in concert with Bill Dixon, Philip Wilson and Beaver Harris. Toured Europe with Cecil Taylor.


Presented an all star ensemble at the Kool Jazz Festival, featuring Roy Campbell, Daniel Carter, Raphe Malik, Jemeel Moondoc, Charles Tyler and David S. Ware. Co-organized “Sound Unity,” a five day international festival at CUANDO, New York City. Performed in trio with Milford Graves and Peter Brotzmann at Sweet Basil and with Jimmy Lyons Quartet. Toured Europe with Cecil Taylor.


Premiered composition, “Inheritance” for three voices, bassoon, alto flute, double bass and dance in Downtown Music Series at Third Street Music School. Taught children’s workshops at Lower Eastside Music Workshop. Toured Europe with Peter Brotzmann, Han Bennink, Tony Oxley and Connie Bauer as well as Cecil Taylor Unit.


Premiered “A Thousand Cranes,” an opera for orchestra, dance and a chorus of 1000 school children, performed at opening of UN Second Special Session for Disarmament, June 1982. Performed concerts of his own work with Marilyn Crispell, Karl Berger, Khan Jamal and Daniel Carter.


Concerts for solo bass in Berlin. Composed “Peace Suite” a composition for large ensemble, voices, dance and poetry. Toured Europe with Cecil Taylor Unit.


Trio Concert performing his own compositions with David S. Ware, and Dennis Charles. Composed and performed “Night Skies,” a modern ballet in collaboration with choreographer Patricia Nicholson. Joined Cecil Taylor Unit and also collective group, Commitment. Played bass for Medicine Show’s production of Shaw’s “Don Juan in Hell.” Bassist in Gunter Hampel’s Big Band


Composed music for double quartet concert at St. Mark’s on the Bowery. Composed and presented “Light Slices My Heart,” a ballet with string quartet, and music for voices and small ensemble, inspired by Aztec poetry. Bassist with Raphe Malik Quartet, James Lott Ensemble and Earl Cross in concerts at Yale University, NYU, etc.


CETA Artist Program with Theatre for Forgotten. Composed for many of theater productions and performed in prisons and hospitals. Taught music workshops at drug rehabilitation centers. Concerts of new music at the Kitchen with Denman Maroney and Todd Capp. European tour with Jemeel Moondoc.


Composed and presented ballets: “Liberation Folk Suite,” and “Sun Garden” for mixed ensemble with reeds, strings and voice. Performed at Kingsborough Community College and SUNY at Stony Brook with the collective, the Music Ensemble.


Composed and presented ballet, “Dawn Voice” and many dance/music concerts at St. Mark’s on the Bowery and Environ. Performances with Music Ensemble, Billy Bang, Frank Lowe, Jemeel Moondoc, Maxine Sullivan and others.


Performed at the Five Spot with Don Cherry and Jazz Lofts with Kappo Umetzu, as well as performers listed above.


Co-Founded Centering Music/Dance Ensemble with choreographer Patricia Nicholson. Performed with Cecil Taylor’s big band at Carnegie Hall. Theater Productions with Juju Players and the National Black Theater. Performed at Hilly’s on the Bowery with Rashied Ali.


Participant in formation of the collective band, the Music Ensemble. Concerts and sessions with Gene Ashton (aka Cooper-Moore), Billy Bang, Karl Berger, Charles Brackeen, Billy Higgins, the Juice Quartet, Frank Lowe, Jemeel Moondoc, Sunny Murray, Charles Tyler and David S. Ware in performances at Ornette Coleman’s Artist House, Studio Rivbea, Studio WE, the East, and all night sessions at the basement on Waverly Place. Studied bass with Wilbur Ware.


Bassist at Salt and Pepper Jazz Club in the South Bronx. Began composing and playing jam sessions at local clubs on Harlem and Brooklyn. Performed with NIA at Billie Holliday Theater. Formed trio with Hassan Dawkins. Presented concert of own piece for 17-piece band called Aumic Orchestra and started band called Universal Lamps with Bill Lowe. Studied music with Bill Barron.


Studied bass with Richard Davis, Jimmy Garrison and Paul West.