Jeff Parker’s jazz sounds cool, clarifying and absolutely real ~| Washington

The whole thing starts with Jeff Parker combing an elliptical three-note pattern out of his electric guitar strings until the adjacent blahs eventually die out, which happens quickly because it’s Monday night and the looky-loos are all at home watching Netflix. But in this room, Parker’s audience is clearly the most committed of nightlife’s citizens, and once their conversations have died down, various glasses and bottles continue to clink from behind the bar, broadcasting some sort of Morse-coded announcement of truthfulness: The jazz you’re about to hear really happened somewhere.

Thus begins Parker’s fantastic new live double album, Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy, whose title refers to the Los Angeles cocktail bar in Highland Park, where it was recorded on certain Monday nights in 2019 and 2021. it’s a nod to the setting of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest,” but don’t let that distract you too much. The most important word in the album title is “Monday”. It not only explains the audience’s attentive cool, but also signals this music’s sense of serenity, renewal, foresight and return to work.

And while those flowing, flexible, groovy improvisations almost never feel strained, Parker is at work here. A longtime member of Chicago post-rock band Tortoise, the 55-year-old guitarist has long known how to create indelible melodies, like stumbling over them, and post the defining characteristics of a song as a result of concentration without effort. With this band — drummer Jay Bellerose, bassist Anna Butterss, saxophonist Josh Johnson collectively referred to as ETA IVtet — Parker’s playing feels as clean as ever, drawing clean, crisp lines over thoughtful, propulsive rhythms. His “work” is less about sweat, struggle, or urgency and more about keeping calm, problem solving, and measured collective progress. Which style of work sounds more heroic to you these days?

However, there is also a lot of play in this music, and somersaults come to the fore as Parker or Johnson begin their copycat games, sending lines of melody back and forth until the repetition begins to wipe out the clock. In an interview at Amoeba Records in San Francisco earlier that year, Parker explained his affection for Elements, an ’80s jazz fusion group that “steers into that kind of repetitive space … that I kind of can’t get enough of.” . Can’t get enough of something that never runs out? Sounds like a pretty good deal. Of course, it is also available to us in Parker’s work. Repetition doesn’t have to be redundancy that wears us down. It can be infinity that animates us.

This brings us back to Highland Park, where this music originally unfolded in a precise spatial package over a few finite periods of time. The funny thing is that neither space nor time are really fixed. This bar may have an address, but it’s still stuck on a planet that’s constantly being tossed through an expanding universe. As for those Monday nights, with the creation of these recordings, they became endlessly repeatable and hosted repeats within repeats. In other words, the incomprehensibility of spacetime can feel small and Monday night can last forever. Plink-plink-plink. The jazz you just heard really happened somewhere, and it’s still happening.

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