When I covered Toph-E & the Pussycats (here), I made no particular mention of Chris Parker because that disc was such a genuine group effort, but iconic bass player Anthony Jackson nails it when he rhetorically asks, on the inside liner to The Chris Parker Trio, "Why didn't you play like this 30 years ago?" This isn't the kindly swipe it at first might seem to be but rather a tribute to drummer Parker's growth and mastery over decades. Jackson is fully aware that Mike Brecker, Tom Scott, Will Lee, and, yes, even Tom Hanks (!) and Bob Dylan have recognized Parker as one of the greats. In trio is where this is most readily seen, and the key to that, in Chris' playing, is precisely in what he comments: that "an open mind and a lock on volume" are key.
Volume. It's rare that musicians zero in on that, but it is or should be as much an element of composition and exposition as anything else (to this day, the most brilliant evocation I've ever heard lies in Robert Fripp's discerning playing in the early King Crimson LPs, just stunning). And it's attention to that which lets this ensemble fully blossom. Kyoko Oyobe's pianistics of course keep to center stage, as they should, but Parker's control on his traps weld him perfectly into the mid-section with Ameen Saleem's bass the true bottom end, a fundament he explores well. This semi-reversal of drums and bass is significant, though the two trade off back and forth (as in Song for Bilbao where Saleem recaptures the median space).
Oyobe tends to Evans/Guaraldi/Brubeck territory but throws in plenty of riffs and improvs you'd never hear from those guys, which is why I think Parker fell in with her. He couldn't help but, her lines are fascinating and must be pure pleasure to work with because they seize on the cerebral while leaping for joy. Then there are the Jarrett-esque inventions on Bruno Destrez's Wednesday Morning, with just a hint of Ferrante & Teicher, but never in darkness. Light shines everywhere, waves splash on the shore, birds wheel overhead, and it's Oyobe's touch which imbues all that, not just aesthetic at-the-moment compositional inflection (improv) per se. It's here, too, that Saleem goes to town and that Parker's role leans into Jon Christensen territory.
The old jazz tradition is taking hold again as acid house, acid jazz, acid acid, and the welter of too often half-assed "experimental" brand testing (read: trend-following) from the 80s and 90s collapses apace. There's a reason for artistic values (as well as a justification for savaging them, if you're way artistic in doing so), and there's a reason they provide safe harbor after all the waywardnesses. No one in this "hip" "liberal" "progressive" culture wants to admit it, bit it's so, and work like this refreshes the primal baseline we wrongly thought we'd jaded away from. Oh, and you get a cool cartoony ink-n-watercolor cover by Parker this time around, too.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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