Jeff Parker, “Forfolks”
By Michael J. West · December 07, 2021 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

The “folk” in the title of Forfolks, Jeff Parker’s album of solo electric guitar, is no accident. Parker is a part of Chicago’s jazz and improvised music community and a member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), yet his playing on Forfolks is rife with certain folk music patterns and often sounds like acoustic plucking.

At the same time, though, he casts himself in a sea of overdubs. Sometimes they’re just bass and comp lines (“Excess Success”); on the closing “La Jetée,” it’s all bass and comp lines, defying the listener to put one in the foreground. Other times, instead of competing ostinatos, Parker plays counterpoints that become tangled with each other (“Off Om”); at still others, he does long drones that sound uncannily like pedal point organ (“Four Folks,” “Flour of Fur”). It’s as mesmerizing as it sounds, and quite a bit more lyrical.

Parker uses just enough choice musical morsels—sometimes offsetting them with effects or contrasting picking techniques—for the ear to grab onto and chase through the jumbles of sounds and ideas. Even if he sometimes yanks them away like a bullfighter’s cape (like the melody line whose sound cuts in and out on “Suffolk”). Yet, lest it seem as though he’s severing himself entirely from the jazz tradition, there are also two standards (“My Ideal” and “Ugly Beauty”), played in fairly conventional jazz guitar style and serving as anchors for Parker, the listener, and any curious passersby.

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