Born 1952 Bronx, New York, Parker is a musician, composer, writer, and educator. He studied bass with Richard Davis, Art Davis, Milt Hinton, Jimmy Garrison, and Wilber Ware. He has recorded 40 albums as a leader featuring his music and concepts, covering a wide range of ensembles from solo bass, quartets, sextets, including the 17 piece The Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra, and Special projects like The Essence Of Ellington. He has composed music for The Wroclaw Symphony Orchestra, and hundreds of pieces of vocal music. All of this music incorporates his concept of Universal Tonality and all are improvisational.
He has been on the New York and European creative music scene since 1972. Outside of his work, he has toured and recorded with Cecil Taylor, Milford Graves, Don Cherry, Bill Dixon, Peter Brotzmann, Derek Bailey, John Zorn, Rashied Ali, Charles Gayle, Sonny Murray, Jemeel Moondoc, Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Enrico Rava, Grachan Moncur III, and The Art Ensemble Of Chicago. He has also worked with poets Amiri Baraka, Allen Ginsburg, Miguel Pinero, and Anne Waldman. He has written music for many dance productions in collaboration with Choreographer Patricia Nicholson.
Parker has developed a reputation as a connector and hub of information concerning the history of creative music. He has published seven books covering philosophy, poetry, and the history of creative music and improvisation. In 2021 he released a 10 cd Box set, The Music of William Parker "Migration Of Silence Into And Out Of The Tone World" on Centering Music. Duke University Press published his biography Universal Tonality: The Life and Music of William Parker written by Cisco Bradley.
His "Tone Poem Music And The Shadow People" will be performed in Toronto in January 2022 with musicians and actors. In February 2022, "Trial Of Tears a Continuum 1492- 2022" will be performed at the Sons d'hiver Jazz Festival in Paris. Parker has taught workshops and completed residencies at NYU, Bennington College, Stanford University, and The New School, and is a visiting faculty member at Bennington for Spring 2022.