Jeff Parker's futuristic jazz
With his new album, the Tortoise guitarist experiments with jazz. Always melodic and often moving, the album is dedicated to his mother Max Brown.
Jeff Parker’s art has always broken the boundaries of the music he made with the band Tortoise, of which he remains THE legendary guitarist. From post-rock to jazz, the Chicago native who has played with Joshua Redman, Brian Blade, Meshell Ndegeocello and Makaya McCraven has always had his interests in a particular genre: “I was drawn to jazz music as a kid. That was the first music that really resonated with me once I got heavily into music. When I was nine or ten years old, I immediately gravitated to jazz because there were so many unexpected things. Jazz led me into improvising, which led me into an experimental process of making music”.
With Suite for Max Brown which has just been released on the excellent label International Anthem Jeff Parker has made a sequel of sorts to his album The New Breed, released in 2016. It’s an homage to his mother Maxine Brown (a photo of her at the age of 19 features on the cover), bringing together nine original compositions as well as versions of Black Narcissus by Joe Henderson (named Gnarciss) and After the Rain by John Coltrane.
Supported by the pianist and saxophonist Josh Johnson, bassist Paul Bryan, piccolo trumpet player Rob Mazurek, trumpeter Nate Walcott, drummers Jamire Williams, Makaya McCraven and Jay Bellerose, cellist Katinka Klejin and even his 17-year-old daughter Ruby Parker (who lends her voice to the opening track Build A Nest), Parker has built the base of his project Suite for Max Brown from different beats and samples, composed music with a guitar, keyboards, a bass and percussion, then sporadically recorded his voice before inviting his musician friends to play and improvise over his melodies.
The result is more hybridised than ever, a filtered patchwork of jazz, with a perfect balance between digital explorations and excursions into more classic jazz which gives the work as a whole an original flair difficult to categorise into one genre.