Max Brown Part 1 begins a new release phase for Jeff Parker

Guitarist Jeff Parker is one of the most innovative improvisers around and it's encouraging that a new high profile project is on the go it emerges. Via social media today Parker writes: ''So excited to be the first artist to launch this grand new …

Published: 2 Dec 2019. Updated: 5 months.

Guitarist Jeff Parker is one of the most innovative improvisers around and it's encouraging that a new high profile project is on the go it emerges.

Via social media today Parker writes: ''So excited to be the first artist to launch this grand new collaboration between International Anthem Recording Co. and Nonesuch Records with the release of Max Brown, Part I and Part II, the lead single from my new album Suite For Max Brown (full album coming in 2020).''

Max Brown features Paul Bryan (bass, co-producer) Josh Johnson (alto), Nate Walcott (trumpet) and Jamire Williams (drums).

Parker hasn't been on the marlbank radar much since the end of 2016 when a favourite record of that year was The New Breed a new peak from the Chicago guitarist.

Unlike a million progressive jazz guitarists Parker does not sound or try to sound like Bill Frisell although he is manipulating that space first cut into jazz via a power cable decades back by Charlie Christian that Frisell beyond bebop often ends up in to harness all sorts of slacker jazz, rock, improv and experimental ideas and flick an almighty switch for the mélange to surge and linger.

Parker manages, and listen to the old for want of a better word back catalogue stuff, modern mainstream acoustic jazz (eg soaked in Kenny Burrell or even early-Brother Jack vintage George Benson in this instance without Parker ever being literal in his stylising) to winkle out and manipulate these hidden spaces by worrying away at them as if he was doing harmonic acrostics. And he does that on the understated ‘Here Comes Ezra’ on the 2016 album, the whole thing stapled together by a regular off-the-shelf beat before the sax of Josh Johnson takes it out, the ideas unfolding one by one.

There’s lots of teased in overdubbing just enough to thicken the textures and use of keys to supplement the harmonic edge that the guitar on its own can’t always provide. Parker also plays by turn a Korg MS20, Wurlitzer electric piano, Mellotron, and uses loops, samplers MIDI and drum programming but it’s mastered down and yet not as sparse as an ECM record although, still to be fair, much more David Torn matte than Matt Pierson satin in terms of studio sonics and in the case of The New Breed locates a world away even if only a decade and a bit on from The Relatives in terms of his conceptual thinking.

Jazz fans, myself included often forget when they think of iconic players such as Parker that they actually can turn on and turn off the tap of sub-generic styles within jazz without even thinking about it beyond say an intention to do a free jazz album like Ornette, or a mainstream thing, say. Whether the starting point is the same as the ending point is anyone's guess but that doesn't matter because it is creativity, the whole point of making music, end of, and communicating via emotion however abstract. SG.

Photo of Jeff Parker: Wikipedia

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Tom Harrison, Unfolding in Tempo, Lyte

From 2016. Jazz possesses the infinite capacity to live both in the present and the past. And this album by saxophonist Tom Harrison in the company of singer Cleveland Watkiss, pianist Robert Mitchell, bassist Daniel Casimir and drummer David …

Published: 2 Dec 2019. Updated: 5 months.

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From 2016. Jazz possesses the infinite capacity to live both in the present and the past. And this album by saxophonist Tom Harrison in the company of singer Cleveland Watkiss, pianist Robert Mitchell, bassist Daniel Casimir and drummer David Lyttle, provides ample evidence of this.

The past takes care of itself, with repertoire mined mainly from deep within the Ellington/Strayhorn songbook (‘Take the A Train’ reinvented by Watkiss for a Cheltenham audience reflecting its live setting at the Everyman theatre, ‘Things Ain’t What They Used To Be,’ ‘Solitude’ etc), while Robert Mitchell injects modernistic jazz chords and the whole band pushed hard by a scampering pared down rhythmic treatment Lyttle delivers on drums, the urgent interjections and rampaging arabesques of Harrison floating on top.

Bassist Daniel Casimir, recently a winner at the latest Worshipful Company of Musicians competition, nestles in expertly and knits well with Lyttle, the album full of life and vitality that belies the fact that the material is so antique and familiar.

Recorded live in Cheltenham and at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in London, Unfolding in Tempo is a must for anyone interested in Ellingtonia and how a new generation across the Atlantic relates to it more than a half a century on.