Post Lockdown-released jazz is often about solo statement (given that a lot of releases at the moment date back to then) and this is a prime example. The opener 'Off Om' sounds as if it could even be music from Mali, that shuddering up and down the frets and a quasi-pentatonic sense that can be hypnotic. Only a tiny vignette to set the scene then there's more of a wistful folk-like feel to the title track.
Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker recording in California makes sweet music in a quiet vein throughout. Often very pastoral but there are relapses into a cityscape along the way and a delving into the past can act as a jolt. So on 'My Ideal' (first recorded by Maurice Chevalier in 1930 and covered by the likes of Chet Baker and Tony Bennett down the years) we are led matter-of-factly into jazz standard territory. And again turning down the lamp is part of the process and it is a winning treatment, tactile and nostalgic at the same time and chordally alert and imaginative.
'Suffolk' is a complete turnaround. Its sustained hum of a drone and guide-line underpins the whole thing to let Parker improvise on top and the overdubs fill the thing out. There is an intimacy to the album overall that you get on a Pat Metheny solo album like 2003's One Quiet Night. But this enters into the electronic more overtly on 'Flour of Fur' where its futuristric eerieness seems as if Parker is navigating an empty city late at night with only the light of the street lamps for company. Later there is again that switching to the antique when Parker's take on Thelonious Monk’s 'Ugly Beauty', from Underground, reputed to be the only piece Monk wrote in a 3/4 time signature, following. Parker manages to change the material into his own image and you will know this when you hear the whole album in context because nothing jars. He could be playing 'Jingle Bells' and it would sound like him. 'Excess Success' is the most stimulating piece of all with its quietly chugging anchor riff and high descant commentary way up the frets – again that African feel comes into play. Forfolks is an album where huge dynamic range is not important at all. Parker's Isotope 217 tune 'La Jetée' also recorded with Tortoise in the 90s encourages his jazz fans to meet his alt.rock followers head on. An album that to its undying credit never shouts to be heard. SG Jeff Parker, photo: Bandcamp