Saturday, April 21, 2012

Jeff Parker: Bright Light In Winter

Jeff Parker (guitar)
Bright Light In Winter (Delmark; 2012)
Chad Taylor (drums)
Chris Lopes (bass)

Jeff Parker has been unstoppable force on the Chicago scene as well as international for a few decades now. Some may know the name from the highly influential band Tortoise or his work with Matana Roberts, Fred Anderson and Ken Vandermark to name just a few.

His own output as leader has been limited but still exceptional and rewarding. His latest, Bright Light In Winter is moving, versatile and experimental.

There a sonic echo chamber quality to Parker's solo material that resonates through each of his records. It's vividly apparent on the opener, "Mainz," as the trio runs through a deep reservoir of sound. The thumbing bassline from Lopes and the almost rhythmic tapping of Taylor seep in with a romantic melody by Parker. The piece becomes very hypnotic and intoxicating as it moves forward.

Parker writes or outlines a grey course for rolling drums and funky bass patterns on "Freakadelic." This allows the trio to improvise fluidly and freely. Lopes' notes are embedded in the mix but just audible enough for you to feel the groove points.

"The Meaning Of The 5th" is a ballad that is highlighted by Lopes (who also wrote the piece) performing on flute. This might bring to mind some of the more soul-jazz themes of the '70s or more recent work by Nicole Mitchell. It's a calming piece that shows the straight ahead side of Parker's writing.

"Bright Light, Black Site" adds a bit of Latin rhythm to the mix. The piece moves in different gears but always keeps a nice rumba appeal. Parker's lines are rich, dense and very textured. He turns in a lovely performance that feels like a combination of periods from Jim Hall to John Abercrombie. Cool yet experimental.

While his performances and recordings have quietly built up his presence within and outside of the jazz scene, Jeff Parker still needs the wider audience he deserves. Bright Light In Winter is just another brilliant record in the canon of Jeff Parker's arsenal. But its a work of experimental and modern excellence. A true must listen.

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