I’ve only seen guitarist Jeff Parker once, and that was when he was on stage with Tortoise at a less than perfect gig in Islington.
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 to find and manipulate these hidden spaces by worrying away at them as if he was doing harmonic acrostics as for instance he does on ‘Here Comes Ezra’ the whole thing stapled together by a regular off the shelf beat before the sax of Josh Johnson takes it out.
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 Torn matte than Pierson satin in terms of studio sonics.
And there’s a sense of exploration on a deftly unravelling track like ‘Visions,’ a kind of plangent tug and drag to the musical narrative and above all an appealing “I don’t know all the answers” vibe that provides a great contrast to the technocrat jazzers who have a playing answer for everything but question nothing.
When Parker builds up a guitar solo with uneasy vocalising stitched in behind it as on the absorbing ‘Jrifted’ you’re sucked in, and you’re gonna come away overall with a sense of discovery and admiration at the skill of hearing someone create something completely fresh, uncontrived and natural say over at ‘On How Fun Is It To Year Whip’ on which drummer Jamire Williams, who you may have heard with that fine keyboardist Kris Bowers, makes his presence felt, coming into his own as he curls a groove out of nothing. Ironies abound, there isn’t a jazz cliche in sight even on closer ‘Cliche,’ the surprise vocal, yes really, from Parker’s daughter nothwithstanding. SG
Out now on CD and streaming above