Multi-instrumentalist Jeff Parker has been a towering figure at the nexus of jazz, post-rock and experimental music in Chicago for the last two decades. He’s an anchor in iconic post-rock outfit Tortoise, a member of the long-running jazz institution Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and when it comes to collaborations, the downloadable five-page CV he’s posted on his website only scratches the surface. His role as sideman for both neo-soul veteran Meshell Ndegeocello and indie mainstays Yo La Tengo shows his reach extends beyond genre classifications and geographical boundaries.
Parker left Chicago for L.A. a few years ago, but his latest album as a bandleader, The New Breed, has its roots in his old home. The New Breed grew out of beat and sample-based projects Parker started years before relocating. He then enlisted drummer Jamire Williams, saxophonist Josh Johnson and bassist Paul Bryan to flesh out those old concepts. The collaborations cause The New Breed to blossom; Johnson’s snaggletooth sax melody pumps blood into the lackadaisical, wobbly-legged passages on opener “Executive Life,” and Williams’ sauntering drumming calmly steers closer “Cliche,” which also features easygoing vocals from Parker’s daughter, Ruby. Parker holds everything together, adjusting his lithe guitar playing to match the mood of each song and infusing The New Breed with tender, hearthside warmth.