Jeff Parker: 'This album is more about me seeking to exploit specific sonic environments'

Jeff Parker: 'This album is more about me seeking to exploit specific sonic environments'

credit: Jim Newberry

Multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer discusses his new record, differing styles and a new generation of jazz innovators

Jeff Parker's Suite For Max Brown slinks into your consciousness via toothsome jazz licks and indelible grooves. The composer and guitarist's music has a comparable man-vs-machine aesthetic to Tortoise, the pioneering post-rock band he's been a member of since the early 1990s, but it's more oriented towards jazz, funk and hip hop than dub, electronica and the avant-garde. On 2016's The New Breed, Parker built upon a library of samples and beats he had made a decade prior, injecting a wonky underground hip hop sensibility into his jazz compositions. 'The New Breed was more concerned with the intersection of sample-based composition and improvisation,' he explains, 'There are remnants and overlap of that process on Suite For Max Brown, but this album is more about me seeking to exploit specific sonic environments, acoustically and sonically. There's a lot more stagnation, more loops.'

The new album mixes originals with reinterpreted jazz classics, including John Coltrane's ballad 'After The Rain', which found its way into the New Breed band's repertoire after Parker first played it on a trio gig with Makaya McCraven and Junius Paul in Chicago. It's a gorgeous composition, but as Parker notes, there's a hint of irony to the recording. 'I wanted to make a version with the FM electric piano sounds, as a nod to the fusion records that I came up listening to in the 80s, which somehow seemed so wrong but also really beautiful in the way that musicians were embracing technology and trying to do something creative within that.'

Although Parker now lives in Los Angeles, he continues to work with Chicago musicians. His solo albums are released on International Anthem, a label renowned for its championing of a new generation of Windy City jazz innovators, including McCraven, Jaimie Branch and Angel Bat Dawid.

'I am very inspired by this generation's approach to the music. I think that it's a circular trajectory. For instance, in Makaya's formative years he had been inspired by some of the music that I was making in the past, so he sought me out as a mentor and collaborator. At the same time, I'm inspired by what he's doing and his ideas and approaches help to keep a fresh perspective on what I'm trying to do. I consider us to be peers now. I see it as a continuation of a long Chicago tradition which embraces a community of independently-minded experimental musicians.'

Jeff Parker and The New Breed play Celtic Connections,The Blue Arrow, Glasgow, Sat 25 Jan.

Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and The New Breed

Jeff Parker (1967) is a multi-instrumentalist, producer and composer. A longtime member of the influential indie-band Tortoise, Parker is recognized as one of contemporary music’s most versatile and innovative electric guitarists and composers. With a prolific output characterized by musical ideas of angularity and logic…